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Joe Haden broke his fibula in a Pittsburgh Steelers victory over the Indianapolis Colts earlier this month, and with him gone, the defense hasn’t been the same. Many fans worried that he would be out for the season, and the team’s Super Bowl chances would disappear with him. But now, thankfully, we have extremely positive news on the Haden front.

According to Ray Fittipaldo of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Haden has been off crutches since Sunday. While he doesn’t have a timetable in mind yet, he is optimistic about returning to the Steelers this season. The typical timetable for recovery with a broken fibula is six-to-ten weeks, which puts him squarely on track to be back in time for the playoffs, at least the later rounds when he’ll be needed most.

The Steelers gave up 28 points to the Green Bay Packers and backup quarterback Brett Hundley last week, an outcome that would have been prevented with Haden in the lineup. They have allowed six touchdowns of 39 or more yards in the past three weeks, which corresponds to Haden’s absence. By comparison, they allowed only four passing plays of that length in the eight games in which they actually had Haden.

Beyond that, Haden was a unifying force for the team. The Steelers never sign major free agents, but in bringing him on board, the front office showed the players that they believed they could win the Super Bowl right away. Haden inspired them. He is the sort of veteran star that the Steelers never add, and his impact on youngsters Artie Burns and Mike Hilton has been pronounced.

Haden has never played in a playoff game, having languished with the Browns for his entire pre-Steelers career. He signed with the Steelers in the hopes of competing for a Super Bowl. They were well on track to do so before he got hurt, and have kept winning even in his absence. If he returns at full strength by the time the playoffs roll around, scoring on the Steelers will be extremely difficult.

During his Tuesday press conference, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin didn’t provide much of an update on injured cornerback Joe Haden outside of saying he wouldn’t play Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals. As for when Haden might ultimately be able to return to action, Tomlin indicated he really wasn’t sure.

“I don’t have any clarity on his situation, or when he’ll return,” Tomlin said. “Really, as we get close, I’ll ask more definitive questions about where he is. I’m not close enough yet. He’s out this week.”

On Wednesday, Haden, who has already reportedly ditched his crutches, told the media that while he is optimistic about coming back this season, he still has no time table as to when that will actually be, according to Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. For now, Haden indicated Wednesday that he’s just listening to what the team’s trainers tell him to do.

Many originally believed and speculated that Haden, who suffered a high fractured fibula during the first half of the Steelers Week 10 road game against the Indianapolis Colts, would only be sidelined for three to four weeks with his injury. The three week mark, however, will be this Sunday. In all likelihood, Haden will also miss the Steelers Week 14 home game against the Baltimore Ravens.

So, will Haden be back in time for the Steelers Week 15 home game against the New England Patriots? There’s obviously no way to really know the answer to that question at this time but that contest will take place exactly five weeks after his injury took place. In the meantime, fellow Steelers cornerback Coty Sensabaugh is expected to start in place of Haden.

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