When Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden went down with a fractured left fibula, initial reports looked promising. Some thought he would just miss three games and then return to bolster a defense that has struggled against the pass.
Those optimistic reports are starting to wane a bit. Haden was hurt on Nov. 12, so the game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 3 will be three weeks. He’s out for that game, as expected. However, when Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was asked how soon he could come back, he had no idea.
“No clarity on his situation and when he’ll return,” Tomlin said, per Joe Rutter of Trib Live. “As we get close, I’ll ask more definitive questions about where he is.”
The implication there is that he’s not even close yet, which is concerning. That seems to suggest he’s going to miss more than the game against the Bengals before they get him back.
Naturally, it would be wise for the Steelers to be careful with him. They’ll really need him in the playoffs, which are basically a lock with the Steelers sitting atop the AFC North with a 9-2 record. A meltdown could happen, but it’s not likely to start against the 5-6 Bengals. The Steelers likely feel they can ride their offense to a win on Sunday.
The next two games are far harder and more meaningful. They play the rival Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 10 and the New England Patriots on Dec. 17. If at all possible, they need Haden for that New England game, in what could be a preview of the AFC Championship Game.