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'Chips fall' for Sensabaugh

Coty Sensabaugh made no guarantees regarding his readiness to replace Joe Haden for as long as it takes at cornerback opposite Artie Burns.

"Guess well see," Sensabaugh offered.

He's been working toward that eventuality all along, just in case.

"I just go out every day and try to get a little better, and however the chips fall is how they fall,"  Sensabaugh said.

The way they've fallen all of a sudden is Haden is out with a fractured fibula and Sensabaugh is poised to make his first start with the Steelers on Thursday night against Tennessee, the team that drafted him on the fourth round out of Clemson in 2012.  

Sensabaugh might have been starting at left cornerback all along had the Steelers not signed Haden as a free agent on Aug. 31.

Cornerback Ross Cockrell, who had been battling Sensabaugh to hold onto the starting position Cockrell had occupied the previous season, was traded to the New York Football Giants on Sept. 2.

Haden was on the sidelines for the Steelers' preseason finale on Aug. 31 at Carolina, and in the starting lineup for the regular-season opener on Sept. 10 at Cleveland.

The Steelers prepare for the Week 11 matchup against the Tennessee Titans.

"I'm sure it was unexpected for a lot of people," Sensabaugh said. "It probably affected me more than anybody else on this team. But I know as soon as we got him I hit up (Browns defensive back) Jason McCourty, who I was in Tennessee with, and asked him for Joe's number and welcomed him."

Sensabaugh, 5-foot-11 and 187 pounds, had been welcomed by the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent on March 20.

His resume included 72 NFL regular-season games and 29 NFL regular-season starts in four seasons with the Titans, a three-game stint with the Rams after leaving Tennessee for Los Angeles as a UFA in 2016, and then 11 games with the Giants at the conclusion of last season after he'd been released by the Rams.

Sensabaugh appeared in the NFC Wild Card Game on Jan. 8 at Green Bay (the Giants lost, 38-13, but Sensabaugh had a sack of Aaron Rodgers).

The Steelers were initially attracted to Sensabaugh's versatility, his perceived ability to play man-to-man or zone coverage and to play outside or in the slot. They liked his experience and his exposure to Tennessee defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who has been doing a lot of the same things schematically with the Titans since his arrival in 2015 that he had done during his tenure with the Steelers.

"We felt like we needed some help at corner," defensive coordinator Keith Butler said. "And then we were lucky enough to get Joe. Joe was icing on the cake.

"I have a lot of confidence in (Sensabaugh). I think he'll play well."

Sensabaugh's expectation is the job will be Haden's again eventually.

"I'm happy he's here," Sensabaugh said. "Everybody's happy he's here. We want him to get well and get back to us as soon as possible but until then everybody else has to pick up their game and hold it down for him.

"We're 7-2 right now. We're trying to win this whole thing so we have a long season ahead of us."

Added defensive captain and defensive end Cam Heyward: "We gotta hold it down and make sure when Joe comes back we're in a good position where he doesn't have to rush back.

"I would like it that we get done with the season, we can give Joe that first-round bye (in the postseason) and let his body heal a little more but you don't know how it's gonna be.  We just have to be ready."

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