Steelers' Joe Haden inactive for Week 15 showdown vs. Patriots

On Sunday morning, it looked like when the Pittsburgh Steelers took the field for their Sunday afternoon game against the New England Patriots, they'd do so with a lift on defense.

NFL.com reported that the Steelers believed injured cornerback Joe Haden would make his return to the field this week, but by the time the team released their inactive list, Haden was on it. He will not play. 

"We are in the playoffs, we have something to look forward to," Haden said earlier this week, per the Steelers' official website. "I don't want to go out there half (-way), and be out there hurting the team, hurting myself. Knowing we have games coming, knowing I am on my way back. I want to play if I can play, if I can't it is what it is."  

Haden has been out since Week 10, when he suffered a fractured fibula during the Steelers' win over the Indianapolis Colts. The Steelers said at the time that they did not expect the injury to end Haden's season, and it remains to be seen if they were correct in that analysis. Given that he was close to playing this week, it seems likely that he'll get back on the field at some point. In the meantime, Haden's snaps will likely continue going to Coty Sensabaugh, who started off playing fairly well in Haden's absence but has been burned a couple times lately. 

The winner of the Patriots-Steelers game is exceedingly likely to pick up the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC and homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs -- and the Steelers will formally clinch that status if they're the team that wins. They're a game ahead of New England as of this writing, and a win would move them two games ahead with control of the head-to-head tiebreaker, so with two games remaining on the schedule, they'd have things wrapped up. (Note: This is mistaken. The Jaguars can still secure home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with wins in their final two games, plus two losses by the Steelers.)

CBS Sports Writer

Jared Dubin is a New York lawyer and writer. He joined CBSSports.com in 2014 and has since spent far too much of his time watching film and working in spreadsheets. Full Bio

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