At least as far as the cornerback position goes, Joe Haden has literally been the only steady presence for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season. While even he has had his rough patches here and there, the nine-year veteran has provided some much-needed consistency at the back end of this unit.
His signing that hoped to be transformational last August, and while he may not have turned the group into the Legion of Boom, he has at least been the one player they could look to who can do what is asked of him, much more frequently asking him to follow wide receivers around this year.
Haden secured his second interception of the season against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the red zone during the fourth quarter last night in a critical moment of the game, making a leaping grab in between Rob Gronkowski and another target, staying inbounds at the right sideline while Brady was under pressure.
Even before the game, Haden knew how big a play like that would be. “We’ve just got to keep pushing and make sure we make those plays at the end of the game because it’s not like we’re just getting people running by guys, it’s just those tough tight plays, bang bang”, he said.
Haden has been close in the past couple of weeks. He should have had an interception in the end zone two weeks ago had Sean Davis not run into him. Last week, he narrowly missed a ball that just got threw to Jordy Nelson late in the game. He wasn’t going to let this one get away, and drew on lessons from Antonio Brown about making those sideline catches.
“He said let your legs go numb, so soon as I caught it, I felt like I let my legs go numb. I learned it from AB”, he said after the game.
While Coty Sensabaugh and Artie Burns were mixed around, and so were Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton—and Morgan Burnett was running into his own guys—Haden has been, when healthy, the guy that has always been there for the team since he arrived less than a year and a half ago. That hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“Joe is a special guy”, Head Coach Mike Tomlin said after the game. “He just really is, he’s got special talents but his approach to it day in and day out, he’s a compass of steady and influence for a young secondary or particularly young corner back position those around him, we ask him to do a lot of things beyond a, b, and c, and he does it all with a smile. We are glad he’s a Pittsburgh Steeler”.
Last night, so was everyone else in the city, especially considering how long it’s been since the Steelers have beaten the Patriots—and frankly how long it’s been since they’ve won a game.