The Steelers have signed former Cleveland first round pick Joe Haden to a 3-year contract worth $27 million, $7 million guaranteed in 2017. There’s been a lot of hype around Haden since trade rumors swirled when the Browns were trying to get something in return for the Pro Bowl corner, and the Steelers have been in the mix since then. Now with him added to the secondary, it might look on the surface that the Steelers’ secondary issues might be fixed.
Take a look again.
Understand that the Browns straight up cut Haden. This is a guy who was once known as one of the premier cornerbacks in the league. The Browns have made many bad moves over the years, but no one is that stupid. There’s a reason they were first trying to trade him, then when no offers would suffice, they cut him. They’re eating $4 million. There’s a reason, if not a few reasons, Haden was cut.
Haden’s had a number of health issues over the past two seasons, including tearing both groin muscles last season. With his health being a constant issue, the Browns were having over $11 million of their team not playing consistently. They have younger guys they want to have a crack at playing time that they believe in, and Haden’s eating a lot of their payroll without being on the field more times than not.
Haden’s production, and overall play for that matter, has fallen off a cliff. After being a back to back Pro Bowl corner in 2013-2014, his play has suffered significantly. Here’s a look at how Pro Football Focus has ranked him over the years:
So, why take the risk? Why pay him almost $30 million when he’s been so bad recently? Haven’t the Steelers already tried the Browns leftovers with Justin Gilbert?
First, to compare Haden to Gilbert is an insult. Gilbert has never been elite. Haden has. Second, he’s shown what he can do when healthy. He’s a premier corner. Now, most likely, his best days are behind him. The explosiveness isn’t there like it was and he’s never been a blazing fast guy. The Steelers don’t need Haden to be who he was. If the Steelers believe in Artie Burns, he should still be number one on the depth chart. Haden can slot in nicely across from him as the number two corner. When healthy, Haden is better than Ross Cockrell or Coty Sensabaugh. The Steelers’ zone coverage schemes might also benefit Haden more, since he won’t be asked to do as much man-to-man press coverage. It might keep him healthy, make him more durable and more productive. And who knows, maybe he could find a shade of his former self and give the Steelers at least one year of quasi-elite cornerback play.
There’s reason to be excited about Haden coming to Pittsburgh. He can contribute nicely and definitely gives the secondary more depth, which they drastically needed. He’s not a savior, though. Don’t expect him to be. Haden is a nice fit and should definitely contribute to the secondary’s success.