I think it would not be unfair to say that it is a challenge to be a Cleveland Brown. For the vast majority of players in the NFL, their desire to play the game is largely driven by the desire to win, and to succeed, and less so by money, regional loyalty, and similar factors. Ultimately, those who participate in a sport want to win at that sport.
And former Browns cornerback Joe Haden has not gotten the opportunity to experience a lot of wins over the course of his career. In fact, the 2010 first-round draft pick has never participated in a playoff game in his seven-year career for the simple reason that Cleveland has not made the playoffs in that span.
The Browns have not even had a winning record since 2007, when they went 10-6 and finished second in the division, but still did not make the playoffs. That year, both the Jaguars and Titans seized the Wildcard spots out from under them. They have only been to the playoffs once since returning to the NFL in 1999, losing in the opening round in 2002.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown admires how Haden has handled the losing over the years. I think it would go without saying that Brown would not be able to handle it nearly so well. He already has enough trouble composing himself on the sidelines when the Steelers are losing games.
“When you have a guy with that kind of mentality, that’s the guy you want to be around”, Brown said of Haden and his demeanor and mental toughness yesterday, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.
The All-Pro wide receiver remains highly complimentary of Haden as a competitor, and a frequent opponent, despite the fact that the Browns have had such little success either globally or specifically against Pittsburgh.
He called Haden a “nightmare” to go up against when he is healthy, which the Steelers are now hoping that he will be for their opponents. Brown may have had his statistical successes going up against the former Florida Gator one-on-one, but he was made to work for it.
In fact, he was evidently one of the primary recruiters on the team for the Steelers to sign him, even if he was not alone. His two former college teammates, center Maurkice Pouncey and right tackle Marcus Gilbert, also made the hard sell to the front office about bringing him in.
One would hope that competing against Brown with frequency during practice will help sharpen Haden for the battles ahead as well. Much of the future of this season is banking on the former Pro Bowler regaining is form and remaining healthy while doing it.
The next snap he takes on a field for the Steelers will be his first, and that’s not something you often say for an opening-day starter, but that’s the situation they find themselves in.