Joe Haden was all smiles after practice today and for good reason. For the first time since fracturing his fibula against the Colts on Nov. 12, Haden was back on the practice field, even if it was in a limited role.
"It's getting there," said Haden. "I was limited a little bit in practice. It was more of a hat day, walk-thru. I'll be able to tell a bit more tomorrow. Being able to get cleared to be out at practice, be with the guys. It was special."
Haden, who said the leg hurt a bit, has been working on his rehab for the last few weeks, from running in the pool every day to then taking it to the Ultra G. On Monday and Tuesday he took it to the next level.
"I came out here in the indoor and was running, backpedaling, cutting," said Haden. "Tomorrow I will be able to tell more going through team drills how my leg holds up.
"I think it was good I went out there on Monday and Tuesday and did those things. It was like is it going to hurt? It was a little bit of a mental thing, but I got that out the way. Now I want to be able to cover somebody, be able to run, stop, react and see how my leg feels."
It's too early in the week for Haden to know what his status will be for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots at Heinz Field, but there is no doubt he wants to be out there, if and only if he is healthy.
"We'll probably have a couple of practices, Thursday and Friday, and see how it feels the next day," said Haden. "We are going about it that way, to see how it feels.
"We are in the playoffs, we have something to look forward to. I don't want to go out there half (way), and be out there hurting the team, hurting myself. Knowing we have games coming, knowing I am on my way back. I want to play if I can play, if I can't it is what it is."
And speaking of the playoffs, Haden is still feeling the excitement of winning the AFC North division for the first time in his career and said getting the shirt and hat was special.
"I was having so much fun," said Haden. "Not being able to be out there, they make me feel a part of it, special, that I deserve it. But me being the player I am, I wasn't out there with my guys, I want to get back out there with them and help us get some of these W's. Coach (Mike) Tomlin, as soon as I saw him he said make sure you get your hat and t-shirt. I was so mad Artie (Burns) had his on today. I didn't."
But he did wear it for a while on Sunday night after the game.
"I think I slept in it, but I took it off in the morning," said Haden.
AB for MVP: There isn't anyone who knows what Antonio Brown means more to the Steelers offense than Ben Roethlisberger, and he is in Brown's corner when it comes to NFL MVP.
"He deserves to be a MVP candidate if not the MVP," said Roethlisberger. "The first wide receiver to get it. I don't know anybody more deserving. If you look at what he's able to do and what he is capable of every week, it's just something spectacular and I am happy to be a part of it and to do my little part because it is so fun to watch him. He's special."
More from Ben:
On the strength of the Patriots defense:
"I think their secondary is incredible. A lot of playmakers back there. They are a veteran group of guys that they obviously spent a lot of money on. Very deservingly so. Up front, they have a group of guys that just does their job and does their job very, very well and create issues when it comes to trying to get the ball out quick to put pressure on that secondary."
On why the offense is so comfortable at home;"I think that's natural that any team that plays at home gets to use cadence. You just have familiarity. I think it's just with any team. If you asked any team where they would rather play they'd all say home."
On how much he lives for fourth quarter comebacks:"I'd rather not have them in the sense of you are playing well enough that you do not need to have a fourth comeback but if you have to do it I want the ball. I want to be able to have those opportunities, I relish the moment I think. Any competitor would tell you that no matter what sport it is you want to have the ball, you want to have a chance to go down and win the game. We've done it a few too many times recently to put it on [Chris] Boswell's foot. But you go down and win a football game it makes you feel pretty good about yourself and as a group."