Lost amidst the transitive excitement for former Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden finally experiencing his first winning season, and the first opportunity for him to ever get an opportunity to sniff the postseason, is the fact that he actually is not the only player on the roster for whom a long playoff drought has ended.
In fact, he plays on the same side of the ball, was brought in during the same free agency draft class, and was even taken in the same top 10 picks of the first round of the same NFL Draft in 2010. That would be Tyson Alualu, who was the 10th-overall pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars the same year the Browns took Haden seventh.
Including Maurkice Pouncey, the 18th pick of that round, the Pittsburgh Steelers have three first-round picks from the 2010 NFL Draft class on the roster, and it should go without saying that all three of them have played big roles.
Alualu is the only one between the three that is not a starter, but he has still started four games in place of Stephon Tuitt, who was injured for a number of games in the first half of the season. Over the 14 games played so far this year, Alualu has recorded 29 tackles with two sacks and a batted pass, good numbers for a rotational lineman.
But Alualu didn’t know what it was like to experience a winning season any more than did Haden, though he came slightly closer. The Jaguars went 8-8 during his rookie season and finished second in the AFC South, but did not make the playoffs. Haden’s best record with Cleveland was 7-9.
“I was probably the most excited guy when we clinched”, Alualu told Chris Adamski, via Twitter. ”I’m excited just to be part of that. I came here wanting to be part of something special, and I think we’re heading in the right direction”, he went on. ”I’m super stoked”.
Of course, now that he finally jumped ship, the Jaguars are finally winning. They are already 10-4 on the season with a win over the Steelers in Pittsburgh, in pole position for the three seed, and with a stumble by either the Steelers or Patriots, they could even nab a bye over the final two weeks.
That would be a brisk change of pace for a team that had not won more than five games in a season for six years between 2011 and 2016. The Jaguars went 22-74 in that span. In the same period of time, the Browns went 24-72. Think about that for a moment.
Needless to say, Steelers fans are exceptionally spoiled, but the blunt fact of the matter is that we wouldn’t have it any other way. The franchise is one that embraces the expectations of Super Bowl or bust, year in and year out. By their standards, they have only had six successful seasons ever.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars are celebrating a return to the playoffs, while the Browns are desperately hoping to not go winless heading into Week 16.