Mike Tomlin alluded to the '5-start matchup' that's about to ensue on Sunday in Cleveland when Browns' Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden lines up across from Steelers' Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown. Turns out, that matchup might not even take place.
Haden suffered a hip injury in the Browns' come-from-behind win against the Tennessee Titans last week, which leaves his status for the Steelers' game up in the air.
As Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plains-Dealer reports, head coach Mike Pettine is unsure what the secondary will look like this Sunday when the Steelers come to town.
"With Joe's (Haden) status potentially up in the air, he (Gilbert) might have to play -- but we'll see." Pettine said.
If Haden is unable to play Sunday, it would force rookie Justin Gilbert back onto the field after being benched last week in Tennessee.
Haden being out of the lineup would be a huge break for the Steelers' offense this Sunday, but that would be magnified by Gilbert being in the lineup.
In Week 1 when Gilbert was lined up up across Markus Wheaton, Wheaton torched the rookie to the tune of seven receptions for 97 yards. But it wasn't just Wheaton who exposed the rookie and that ultimately led to Pettine benching the first- round draft choice coming off their bye-week.
Although in Haden's absence Gilbert would most likely assume the role of covering the slot-receiver in sub-packages, it would certainly damage a secondary that's already ranked 28th in the NFL, allowing 269 yards per game through the air.
Haden's status will be updated Wednesday and will be something to watch as this AFC North showdown approaches.