With the Pittsburgh Steelers having completed the first portion of their season, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this year and give out some midseason player evaluations.
The team has had a rocky but ultimately successful season to date, coming out of the first six games with a winning record despite being 1-2-1 just two weeks ago. Coming off of consecutive strong victories with improve play from both sides of the ball, things are looking up.
The offense has done its part for the most part, but has taken some long vacations. Their disappearing acts in the second half was perplexing, but that has improved. Defensively, the secondary is seemingly becoming a bit more stable after being nothing short of terrible previously, but there are absolutely some real concerns remaining.
Player: Joe Haden, CB
We might as well start off our talk about the secondary with the closest thing that the Steelers can claim to have in terms of stability, that being veteran cornerback Joe Haden, whom they added in August in 2017 after he was surprisingly released by the Cleveland Browns.
Pittsburgh so valued him that they didn’t even give him a day, signing him to a three-year contract before the night was through, and he was immediately installed as a starter even though it meant that he had to adjust to a new defensive scheme on the fly.
While bits and pieces might have been familiar to him due to the residuals of what remained of prior coaching connections between the Steelers and Browns, that he was able to contribute quality football so soon was a testament to just how much of a different class of player he was than what the team had grown accustomed to from the position.
And that has continued to be the case in his second year in Pittsburgh. While this fact is aided by the instability across from him, Haden is actually one of the least-frequently-burned cornerbacks in the entire league, in the top 30 in receptions per coverage snap played, even though he has been targeted more frequently in the past couple of games.
He has struggled this year—the Baltimore game was bad—but he has clearly ben their best cornerback in coverage. In other areas, however? Not so much. While they haven’t asked him to blitz, he has unfortunately not been a very good or reliable tackler.
The good news is that he has looked better in that department over the past two weeks, so one can only hope that that has been rectified. It’s not as though they can take him off the field, not after he has had success covering Julio Jones and A.J. Green in back-to-back weeks.