Now that the 2019 NFL Draft is underway, 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: CB Joe Haden
Stock Value: Up
I’m not sure if I’m going to get a lot of disagreement on this one (perhaps most would prefer to call his stock as ‘even’), but I see the 2019 NFL Draft as a positive for veteran cornerback Joe Haden, in that they could have had their shot at any one of the top cornerbacks, or even traded back and still had their choice while gathering more picks, but elected not to do so.
While they did come away with Justin Layne in the third round, one has to wonder how much time he has to develop. In other words, I don’t think it’s immediately clear that there is a near future on the horizon in which it’s not necessary for the team to continue to employ Haden.
Which should keep him in-line for a contract extension later this offseason as he enters the final year of a three-year, $27 million contract that he signed with the Steelers in late August of 2017, the same day that the Cleveland Browns released him. The Browns have drafted cornerbacks in the first and second rounds in the past two years as they continue to try to replace him.
Though he hasn’t necessarily (nor literally) been a Pro Bowler since joining the black and gold, Haden has been a stabilizing presence not just for the secondary but for the defense as a whole. If you have a lot of complaints about the group, just imagine how many more you would have if they were without Haden for the past two seasons.
The Steelers signed Steven Nelson in free agency, but he is no threat. If another player emerges as a starter over the next couple of years, Nelson should slide into the slot, which is why Head Coach Mike Tomlin was so quick to boost his inside-outside versatility after signing. The slot cornerback spends about 70 percent of the time or so on the field at this point anyway.
As far as an extension goes, he could get a raise from his previous $9 million-per-season salary, but that wouldn’t be prohibitive to their 2019 salary cap. He already is scheduled to earn a base salary of $10 million this year, so they could work out a deal that is cap-neutral at worst, or could even save same cap space.