Haden, Hilton Ready for Another Test

Green, Boyd lead Bengals dynamic passing attack

Josh Rowntree
October 10, 2018 - 6:06 pm
Steelers CB Joe Haden at practice in 2018

Josh Rowntree - 93.7 The Fan


A week after stymieing the Atlanta receiving game in a 41-17 drubbing, the Steelers secondary will now look to take its shutdown show on the road, as Pittsburgh travels to AFC North leading Cincinnati Sunday. 

Led by cornerback Joe Haden, the Steelers were able to limit All-Pro Falcons wideout Julio Jones to just five catches for 62 yards, all coming after halftime. 

Throughout the game, Haden traveled with Jones, meaning that he shadowed Jones anywhere he went on the field. On Sunday, Haden will again be tested by a big-body receiver in the Bengals' AJ Green. 

“AJ has speed, the route running is very crisp,” Haden said after Wednesday’s practice. “He’s able to go get the ball, he’s not afraid to go across the middle. He’s an all-around great receiver.”

While Green leads the team in receiving yards and touchdowns, it is former Clairton High School and Pitt standout Tyler Boyd that paces the team in the receptions category, becoming another top target for quarterback Andy Dalton. 

“You know what AJ brings,” Haden said. “Boyd is a great receiver, doing a whole lot for their offense. Third downs, intermediate routes. But AJ is the bomb that can go off over the top at any time, and go the distance. (Boyd) is a great receiver, but I think our main focus is AJ.”

“[Green is] where it all starts,” cornerback Mike Hilton. “That’s the guy they try to get the ball in to. But they’ve also got a lot weapons. Tyler Boyd, (running back) Joe Mixon. They’ve just got a potent offense.”

It seems likely that Haden would again draw the assignment of traveling with the top receiver, and facing Green is not unfamiliar to him, having seen the Bengals twice every season while with Cleveland. 

Haden has, on several occasions, said that he’d prefer to cover a larger receiver, like Green.

“The bigger guys, it’s easier to get your hands on them,” Haden said. “There’s just more frame that you can be able to get your hands on them.”

“He’s long,” Hilton added of Green. “One thing I always notice about him is catch radius. It might look like it’s over the top of him or too outside of his radius, but he somehow grabs them. He makes a living off those catches and is explosive with them.”

On top of Haden’s success against Jones Sunday, the Steelers secondary, as a whole, were drastically improved in coverage and overall play. But it started with Haden’s ability to lock down one of the game’s absolutely best pass-catchers and this week’s performance will likely hinge on a repeat effort. 

“I just want to do whatever the team wants me to do,” Haden said. “If they feel like that’s something that’s going to help us win, I’m ready to do it.

“[Mike Tomlin] knows where my head’s at, so he knows whenever he comes to me I’m ready to accept any challenge. If it’s my choice, I’d do it every time.”

Sitting atop the division, the Bengals could create more separation from Pittsburgh, which have won five games in a row in Cincinnati.

“They’re hot right now,” Hilton added. “They’re 4-1, they had a comeback victory against Miami last weekend. They’re playing real good ball, but I’ll take us over them, any day.”

Injury Update

Linebacker Vince Williams returned to practice for the Steelers and was a full participant after missing Sunday’s game. Rookie safety Terrell Edmunds, dealing with a calf injury, also was a full-go. 

But several players did not participate in Wednesday’s practice. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, center Maurkice Pouncey and Haden all were given the day off for maintenance. 

Safety Morgan Burnett continued to be sidelined with a groin injury. Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who also missed Sunday, did not participate with an ankle injury. 

New to the injury list was linebacker L.J. Fort, who made a positive impact in place of Williams against Atlanta. Fort is dealing with an ankle injury as well.