This could be a really bad week for Steelers to be without CB Joe Haden

Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden (23). Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden (23). Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Joe Haden missed practice for the second straight day on Tuesday. Here’s why the Steelers could really miss his presence if he’s not able to go against the Vikings. 

The Steelers desperately missed cornerback Joe Haden against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 12. Backup James Pierre struggled mightily in his place as Joe Burrow and his talented wide receiving corps were nearly flawless against Pittsburgh’s secondary in what was a 41-point performance.

Though the team seemed to do much better with Ahkello Witherspoon taking the place of Pierre this past week against the Ravens, the Steelers would love nothing more than to get Haden back for Week 14.

Unfortunately, the chances are starting to look pretty slim. After missing practice on Monday with a lingering foot issue, Haden wasn’t able to take the field for the second day in a row on Tuesday. Because the Steelers play Thursday Night Football this week, Haden has one more chance to get on the practice field before he will officially be ruled out of the contest against the Minnesota Vikings.

Losing Joe Haden could really hurt Steelers secondary this week

Why is Joe Haden’s injury status such a big deal right now? The Pittsburgh Steelers are entering a must-win matchup on the road on a short week against the Vikings. In addition to the team’s struggles against uncommon opponents on the road over Mike Tomlin’s tenure as head coach, Minnesota has one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL.

Slowing down Justin Jefferson will be no easy task. After a remarkable rookie season in 2020, the standout Pro Bowl receiver is on an even better pace this year. Through his first 12 games, Jefferson has racked up 1,209 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns while averaging 15.5 yards per reception.

Jefferson is an incredible route runner, so deploying a long-limbed boundary cornerback like Ahkello Witherspoon against him this week could be a disaster waiting to happen. Even after Witherspoon’s impressive performance, it’s easy to see how Jefferson’s strengths could play into Witherspoon’s weaknesses this week.

On the other hand, Joe Haden doesn’t have great long speed at this point in his career, but he does still possess excellent change-of-direction skills to go with terrific technique and play awareness. Sadly, even if Haden was able to get on the field in some capacity for Wednesday’s practice, he might not be ready to go in time for Thursday night after all the time he has missed.

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The Vikings have a few of the best receivers in the league with Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, and it doesn’t look like Joe Haden will be on the field to help slow them down. Let’s hope Keith Butler sends some help in the direction of Ahkello Witherspoon against the Vikings on Thursday Night Football.