Plays of the Year: Returning Joe Haden makes game-clinching 4th down tackle

Steel City Underground presents “Plays of the Year” featuring the top runs, catches, hits and everything else in-between from the Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 season.

The return of veteran cornerback Joe Haden from injury came at a critical time during Week 15 of the 2021 regular season. Haden, who had missed the previous four games, rejoined the team as they clung to a 6-6-1 record, and their playoff hopes barely alive.

Visiting 9-4 Tennessee Titans, on the other hand, could do no wrong despite a number of would-be crippling injuries themselves. They had just enough options, offensively, to potentially destroy the Pittsburgh Steelers on this particular Sunday afternoon.

Fortunately, Haden played a pivotal part in eliminating some of the tools the Titans had at their disposal in the game’s waning seconds.

On fourth-and-seven from the Steelers’ 16-yard line, the Titans were looking for a touchdown that would eliminate the six-point lead the Steelers held with just 46 seconds remaining in regulation time. They didn’t have to get more than seven yards, though, for a new set of downs and to really put the Steelers’ back to the wall.

On a quick pass over the middle, Ryan Tannehill targeted Nick Westbrook-Ikhine. After the catch was made, though, Haden instantly wrapped the Titans receiver up and refused to allow his forward momentum carry the ball past the first-down mark in the open field.

The officials gave the Titans a very generous “spot” that created some emotion from both teams:

  • The Steelers were certain Haden had made the game-winning stop to force a turnover on downs.
  • The Titans sideline was asserting the officials shouldn’t reverse what appeared, to some, to be a first down.

Analysis revealed, however, that Haden clearly kept Westbrook-Ikhine from getting the ball over the “line to make”, thus handing the ball back to the Steelers offense for victory formation with his game-clinching fourth-down tackle.

Pittsburgh would improve to 7-6-1 on the season by a final score of 19-13.

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