The 2019 offseason is shaping up to be a big one for the Pittsburgh Steelers in many ways, but one of the biggest in terms of shaping their future may be how they choose to handle the contracts of players entering the final years of their deals. There are a number of big names on the roster for whom the 2019 season is the last on their contract, Ben Roethlisberger being the most significant.
Another really big name is Joe Haden, who has played two seasons in Pittsburgh now after spending the first seven years of his career with the Cleveland Browns. Year 10 is the last on the three-year, $27 million contract he signed in August of 2017, and he has been one of their most essential defenders since then.
Haden, who will turn 30 in April, hasn’t been a Pro Bowler during his time with the Steelers, but he has been more than solid, and has given them somebody whom they could use as a matchup cornerback. His health has also been better in recent years with respect to chronic injuries, which was a concern upon signing. The question is how much tread he has left on his tires.
But there’s no question about him wanting to be here. He told Chris Adamski, “I’m really happy with the Steelers, I really like being here”. He added regarding his contract status that “we will figure that out when the time comes”.
Of course, the time for contract extensions for the Steelers is often not until July or August. The front office tends to prefer to attend to more urgent matters—re-signing their own free agents, looking at the broader free agent market, preparing for the draft—before wrapping things up with getting key players inked to long-term deals.
With the current state of the Steelers’ cornerback position, however, can they afford not to keep him around? After all, they just went through a season in which Coty Sensabaugh was a primary starter for most of it. Not to knock him, but he started the year as a healthy scratch for a reason.
Artie Burns is close to flaming out and will certainly not be guaranteed a roster spot in 2019. Not even Mike Hilton feels like a sure thing anymore, which the coaches have acknowledged by giving Cameron Sutton more of his snaps over the last stretch of the season.
The Steelers may need to extend Haden and bring in yet another cornerback in free agency, one who can be a long-term starter. At the moment, this draft class doesn’t seem great at the position, and they do have more cap space than they ordinarily would have for reasons I surely don’t need to spell out.