For a second consecutive game, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be without three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden. Initially labeled as questionable, Haden's foot injury will keep him out of Sunday's road game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Haden was limited during Pittsburgh's last two practices and did not practice during the Steelers' Wednesday practice.
With Haden out, James Pierre is in line to replace him in the starting lineup. Pierre, who made Pittsburgh's initial 53-man roster following an impressive preseason, replaced Haden in the starting lineup during the Steelers' 41-37 loss to the Chargers last Sunday night. Pierre made five tackles against the Chargers while taking part in 97% of the team's defensive snaps.
Pierre, who gave up a deep touchdown pass while covering Ja'Marr Chase during Pittsburgh's Week 3 loss to Cincinnati, made the game-clinching interception during the Steelers' Week 4 win against the Broncos. An undrafted rookie in 2020, Pierre has 40 tackles, one interception, four passes defensed and two forced fumbles this season.
While Haden remains out, the Steelers will have pass rusher T.J. Watt and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick for Sunday's game after injuries sidelined both players during last Sunday's loss in Los Angeles. Watt, who also missed Pittsburgh's first game against Cincinnati, has 12.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries despite missing two games due to injury. An All-Pro during his first two seasons with the Steelers, Fitzpatrick has 64 tackles in nine games this season.
The Steelers defense will try to slow down a Bengals offense that is ninth in the NFL in scoring, fifth in touchdown passes and fourth in red zone efficiency. Second-year quarterback Joe Burrow has taken advantage of Cincinnati's talented skill corps that includes Chase, fellow receivers Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, and running back Joe Mixon.
The winner of Sunday's game will have sole possession of second place in the AFC North division. Cincinnati (6-4) is currently in second place following last Sunday's win in Las Vegas. Pittsburgh (5-5-1) is just a half game ahead of last place Cleveland after dropping last week's game against the Chargers.