They say that if you love what you do, then you’ll never feel like you worked a day in your life. To hear Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden talk, you would think that he has never worked before, because he truly loves the game of football. Barring injury, there is little downtime for him between the end of one season and the beginning of training for the next.
Heading into his 10th NFL season, recently turning 30 years old last month, it doesn’t seem as though his love for the game has ever wavered, even after spending most of his career on losing teams. In fact, he has only been to the postseason once, when the Steelers went 13-3 his first season here in 2017, and they lost their lone playoff game.
Has that diminished his resolve, even after the team missed the playoffs altogether a year later? Certainly not. “It’s just a good feeling to get back out here”, he told reporters last week at the start of OTA practices. “When you start putting helmets on, when you start going against the offense, that’s just what it’s really about”.
It’s really no wonder that Haden was pretty much instantly not just accepted in the locker room but embraced as somebody who would be among their leaders. On the defensive side of the ball, it’s pretty much Cameron Heyward, the longest-tenured defender on the team, and then Haden. T.J. Watt might emerge as another voice this season, but he is one of the players that others look to, no matter what the issue might be.
Which of course makes it all the more comical that there seems to be some punditry out there suggesting that Haden could actually be a salary cap casualty, citing the fact that the Cleveland Browns released him in August a couple of years ago, as though the two organizations have a history of conducting business in similar ways.
Outside of a player legitimately having the chance to make the roster, I can’t think of a recent example of the Steelers releasing a veteran late in the offseason. Pretty much a few days after the draft is their cutoff to let a veteran go, as they did earlier this year with Jon Bostic, who spent just one season in Pittsburgh. The same with J.J. Wilcox the year before, and Zach Mettenberger the year before that.
Haden hasn’t even been here for two years, but he is just about as much a through-and-through member of the Steelers as anybody else in the organization, which says both a lot about him and a lot about the organization and the city that has embraced him.