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I just wanted to be a part of something where I could play in the playoffs.


“Didn’t want to make a big deal about that,” McVay said. “That’s the one thing that I mentioned that you respect about Aaron is he wants to just come back here. He doesn’t want to be a distraction at all. That’s why he wasn’t at the game yesterday.

“That’s the first thing that he mentioned himself because he realized how important it was for us to kind of take a step in the right direction. That’s what he wanted for his team, and that’s what you like about Aaron: that he’s all about football.”

While Haden had several other suitors chasing his services, including the Raiders, Cowboys and Saints, joining the Steelers wasn’t a difficult choice. He met the team ahead of its final preseason game against the Panthers, and everything seemed to fall into place.

“They were super interested in me,” Haden said after the Steelers’ 17-14 win over the Panthers on Thursday night at Bank of America Stadium. “I just felt like once I was free, I wanted to have a chance to be able to play in some meaningful games, you know what I’m saying?

“They don’t really miss the playoffs, so I’m like, I just wanted to be a part of something where I could play in the playoffs.”

If we’re being honest, every single game on the Patriots’ 2017 schedule is winnable for the best team in the NFL. Considering the impressive offseason moves they made — not including the soon-to-be-completed NFL Draft — another undefeated slate similar to New England’s 2007 season is not a crazy suggestion.

But too many talented, playoff-caliber teams — the Chiefs, Texans, Falcons, Broncos, Raiders and Steelers among them — present traps for the Patriots, whose occasional lapses into complacency would be totally understood. That said, expect the Super Bowl 51 champions to be right back in contention for the Super Bowl 52 crown.
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