Joe Haden has been an integral part of the Pittsburgh Steelers pass-defense this season, ranked No. 2 in the NFL coming into this week. He was injured early in their game against the Indianapolis Colts, and at first appeared to be okay, but after the game, Mike Tomlin delivered a grim diagnosis.
Haden has broken his fibula, and will be out indefinitely. There is a very strong chance given the injury that Haden will not play again this season, and the Steelers will need to adjust their cornerback rotation accordingly.
This is a huge blow to a Steelers team that relied on its defense more heavily than it has in recent years, and seemed to be a serious Super Bowl contender. Their offense has struggled significantly this season, particularly Ben Roethlisberger. The defense has looked championship-worthy all year, but losing Haden will make that significantly harder.
Haden, who had struggled for the past few seasons with the Cleveland Browns, found his footing again in Pittsburgh this year and, especially over the past month, looked to have regained his Pro Bowl form. He signed a three-year, $27 million contract during the preseason, the biggest deal the team has ever given an external free agent.
Without Haden, players like Mike Hilton, William Gay and Coty Sensabaugh will have to step up. Artie Burns will have to become unquestionably the team’s No. 1 cornerback on the same day he was burned for a long touchdown.
The Steelers have rallied around adversity in the past, and are no strangers to playing without their stars. Le’Veon Bell has missed significant time over the past few years, for instance, but this year’s team had maintained excellent health in the first half of the season. That is no longer the case.
Everyone else on the team will have to improve with Haden gone. The other corners will all have to take on heavier loads. The offense will have to play more like it has in year’s past. And Keith Butler will have to do an excellent job of scheming around his other players. It will be a difficult task, but hopefully, it is one the Steelers can live up to.