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Pittsburgh Steelers

How can Steelers replace Joe Haden?

Sep 17, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden (21) on the field during the fourth quarter of a game against the Minnesota Vikings at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The injury bug reared its ugly head for the Pittsburgh Steelers in a surprisingly tough road game against the Indianapolis Colts. Joe Haden, the former Pro Bowl corner who was signed in the offseason, was the cost of the Steelers’ 20-17 comeback victory.

The 28-year-old cornerback was knocked out of the game with a fractured fibula, leaving the Steelers with a significant void in the secondary. There is no timetable for when or if Haden will be back in the lineup. We are already past the trade deadline, and there isn’t anyone in free agency worth bringing in as a replacement this late in the season.

That means journeyman defensive back Coty Sensabaugh is on deck as Haden’s immediate replacement.

That change should bring some concerns for a Steeler defense that had been playing well with Haden and Artie Burns manning the back end. Sensabaugh doesn’t have Haden’s talent, and he is better utilized as a rotational piece rather than a starter. However, he does have experience working as a key piece on a defense. He made several starts for the Titans during his four-year tenure in Tennessee. He also started a couple games for the Los Angeles Rams last season.

If the prognosis for Haden’s injury is short, the Steelers should be fine with Sensabaugh in the backfield, but if it’s a season-ending injury, the defense could have some problems when it faces better quarterbacks down the stretch.

“We’ll do a great job of rallying around Coty Sensabaugh and helping him prepare, and we look forward to him doing the job,” Steeler head coach Mike Tomlin said, via the team’s official website. “I know [Haden’s] injury will get a lot of attention and rightfully so, because Joe is a significant component for us and a new guy, plus he’s been playing well, but injuries are very much a part of the game. We’ve dealt with them all year, and we’ll deal with this one the same.”

Another in-house option for the Steelers would be activating rookie third-round draft pick Cameron Sutton from injured reserve. He returned to practice in late October with the chance of being activated within a 21-day window. The clock is ticking, and there is still no word if the Steelers plan on activating him to the 53-man roster or keeping him on injured reserve.

Chances are Sutton’s fate is intertwined with Haden’s. Both could have a looming impact on the team’s Super Bowl chances.

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