On Friday Sept. 17 the Pittsburgh Steelers added two new names to the team’s Week 2 injury/participation report, namely Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden and third-year inside linebacker Devin Bush Jr. Both are defensive starters—at left cornerback and inside linebacker, respectively—and both are laboring with groin injuries. If it turns out one or both can’t go against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday afternoon, their absence(s) figure to be readily apparent.
Joe Haden was the Highest-Graded Cornerback in the NFL in Week 1 (2021)
For years, the 32-year-old Haden has been the linchpin of Pittsburgh’s passing defense—a stabilizing force who has a knack for keeping one or more of the opposition’s best receivers quiet. That was the case during Pittsburgh’s season-opening win against the Buffalo Bills, when Haden was good enough to be one of two Steelers defenders named to Pro Football Focus’ 2021 Week 1 Team of the Week, earning the highest coverage grade (88.6) and highest overall grade (85.1) of any cornerback in the league.
More importantly, Haden’s presence or absence always seems to be felt in the win-loss column. Last season, the Steelers were 12-2 in the 14 games in which Haden was in the lineup and 0-3 in games without him. That includes both losses to the Cleveland Browns, which he missed due to COVID-19.
As for Bush, his absence is felt primarily in pass coverage, as he has the sideline-to-sideline range that the team’s primary backups—Robert Spillane and Marcus Allen—lack. If there’s any good news, it’s that Spillane figures to be back in the lineup against the Raiders after he missed the Bills game with a shin injury suffered during pregame warmups. He went on to be “limited” in Wednesday’s practice, but was a full participant on both Thursday and Friday.
2 Steelers Tight Ends Appeared on the Injury Report This Week
The only other position group that bears watching is the tight end group. Co-starter Eric Ebron missed Thursday’s practice with a hamstring injury before returning to the field on Friday. Also, third-string tight end Zach Gentry was a new addition to the injury report on Friday with an ankle injury. Like Haden and Bush, he is listed as “questionable” for Sunday. If he can’t play, it’s likely that the Steelers will elevate practice squad tight end Kevin Rader to the active roster. Per Pro Football Reference, Rader made his NFL regular-season debut in the 2020 season-finale against the Cleveland Browns.
Meanwhile, only one Steelers player has already been ruled “out” of Sunday’s game against the Raiders. That’s second-year defensive lineman Carlos Davis, who has been battling a knee injury. With Davis out of the lineup the Steelers can be expected to elevate Henry Mondeaux from the practice squad. Either that or rookie fifth-round pick Isaiahh Loudermilk will make his regular-season debut.
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