Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: Joe Haden
Stock Value: Up
Evaluation Type: Minor, Long-Term
Reason: Health, Comfort Level
It had been years prior to this offseason since Joe Haden last ended a year healthy. Though he dealt with a fibular fracture during the regular season that caused him to miss five games, he returned for the home stretch and into the postseason.
Whether it was a groin or a concussion or another ailment, Haden had been banged up at the end of most seasons in recent years. The Cleveland Browns decided to release him in August last year in part because they questioned whether or not he would ever have his long-term health prospects under control.
But the Steelers, and Haden, believe that he does have things under control, and that includes having worked on his technique and gait last offseason. He said that he felt so good at the end of this season that he was already back training a week after their postseason exit. In part, just because he was healthy enough to be able to do so.
Equally important is the fact that he actually has the opportunity to go through a full offseason with the team this time around. Haden didn’t even get into a preseason game with the Steelers, so late an addition to the roster was he, but of course that could not be helped, given that he was employed by the Browns up to that point. Pittsburgh literally signed him to a three-year contract the same day.
There is ample reason to believe that he will be more comfortable and play better in 2018 than he did in 2017, and he already established himself as a solid starter a year ago, generally a player that you didn’t really have to worry about. The team hasn’t had that at the cornerback position much in recent years.
It would be huge if the Steelers were to be able to get anything close to the Pro Bowl Joe Haden from a handful of years ago, and, realistically, this is the best shot he’s had of returning to that type of form since he was last there. The Steelers clearly agree, based on what they’re willing to pay him this year.