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
The Pittsburgh Steelers are hoping to field the best starting cornerback tandem that they have had in years, not just because they have paid for it—they certainly did, relative to their spending history—but also because they quite simply need it in order for the defense to take the next required step.
They have had Joe Haden for two years now, but the pairing opposite him has lagged behind, between Artie Burns and Coty Sensabaugh in that time. The front office went out and signed Steven Nelson this offseason to be the opposite starter. Nelson intercepted four passes last season with the Chiefs.
In fact, I would argue that the overall improvement of the entire secondary is going to be an asset to Haden this year, upon whom so much of the pressure for the unit to succeed had been placed over the course of the past two years.
Most notable of course would be—should be—the improvement at the safety position. With fourth-year Sean Davis entering his second season as the starting free safety, and Terrell Edmunds going into his second season in the NFL, there is more than a reasonable expectation that both of them, individually, should demonstrate meaningful improvement in 2019.
And just as important, they should prove to grow into a tandem, two players working together in harmony. The chemistry between defensive backs is pretty critical, and considering the fact that Edmunds wasn’t even intended to be the starter, I think it’s fair to say that the on-field communication between the two safeties this year should be better.
All of this should add up to an easier season for Haden, which likely will include his no longer being asked to shadow certain wide receivers, allowing the defense to play strictly sides again because they feel as though they have two cornerbacks who are capable of covering anybody.