Steelers cornerback Coty Sensabaugh confident filling in for Joe Haden
INDIANAPOLIS — The Steelers' Coty Sensabaugh almost certainly will make his 30th NFL start Thursday.
It also will ensure the cornerback will have at least one start in each of his six NFL seasons.
Despite being the property of four organizations over a 13-month span that ended earlier this year, Sensabaugh is no journeyman.
“That's the really crazy thing,” Sensabaugh said after he was pressed into extensive defensive duty for the first time this season because Joe Haden suffered a broken fibula during Sunday's win over the Colts.
“People get it confused. They act like my career I just have been all over the place. (But) I was in one place for four years and then last year, I just had a weird situation with one team.”
In another quirk for Sensabaugh, his first start with the Steelers will come against the team he played in 59 of 64 games for and started 27 from 2012-2015: the Titans. Tennessee drafted Sensabaugh out of Clemson in the fourth round of the 2012 draft.
Four years later, Sensabaugh signed a three-year, $15 million contract with $6.5 million guaranteed with the Los Angeles Rams. But lost his starting job by Week 3 and was inactive in Week 4 before being cut.
“Probably the only player ever cut on a three-year deal after four games,” Sensabaugh said, now able to look back on it with a smile. “But it's all good.”
Sensabaugh signed with the New York Giants days later, and coincidentally, he played against the Rams two games into his tenure in New York.
He played a significant role down the stretch for the Giants, helping them reach the playoffs. But a free agent once more last spring, the Steelers scooped him up with a two-year, $2.6 million contract.
It purportedly was to add veteran depth. But midway through training camp, Sensabaugh was getting first-team reps and pushing Ross Cockrell for a starting spot.
Sensabaugh seemed clearly ahead in that competition by the time the Steelers were about to board a plane for their preseason finale at Carolina.
But about that time early Aug. 30, the Cleveland Browns cut Haden, a former Pro Bowler. The Steelers acted swiftly to sign Haden, ending Sensabaugh's hopes of starting.
“Happy to have Joe here,” Sensabaugh said. “I am sure it was unexpected for a lot of people. It probably affected me probably more than anybody else on this team.
“But I know as soon as we got him, I hit up my guy (Browns defensive back) Jason McCourty that I was in Tennessee with and asked him for Joe's number and welcomed him. So I am happy he is here. Everybody is happy he is here, and we want him to get back 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.”
With Cockrell long ago traded to the Giants, those duties mostly will fall on Sensabaugh, who played every snap Sunday after Haden went out. Sensabaugh finished with three tackles and a pass defended, batting down a ball before star Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton could catch it in the fourth quarter of a tie game.
“Coty came out and did his thing,” safety Sean Davis said. “He had a big play for us.”
The Steelers' other starting cornerback, Artie Burns, said he has confidence Sensabaugh can handle the job.
“Most definitely,” Burns said. “He's been at practice with us. We have been seeing him do the work. I have confidence in him, and I think everybody else has confidence in him to do his job.”