Joe Haden’s too old? Doesn’t have the speed, can’t cover #1 receivers anymore? Don’t tell him that. Haden is evolving with the game. Sitting down on The Rich Eisen Show Monday afternoon, Haden talked about the importance of footwork to combat the league’s crackdown of pass interference calls.
“The game has changed so much from my rookie year when you could put hands on people,” Haden told Eisen. “You could low tug. Now you just have to really legitimately mirror them. It’s an offensive league. I love Coach Tomlin because he understands we’re at the disadvantage. We really just have to work feet, try to mirror the receiver.”
Haden’s spent plenty of time this offseason working on his feet. One of the best such trainers, who goes by the Footwork King, has shared videos over recent weeks of Haden working out with him.
Haden is far from the first Steelers to train with him. Le’Veon Bell and Antwon Blake were former Steelers who worked with him.
Haden also credits good health for allowing him to train more this year. Unlike most other years, save for last season, he spent part of the spring/summer recovering from a surgery that forced him to wait longer in order to train.
With pass interference able to be reviewed in basically every situation, he believes there’s the opportunity for offensive players to finally be called more than they should.
“If [the refs] are looking at it and seeing that, ‘actually, the receiver was pushing off on him,’ maybe we get a couple calls.”
Every DB in football knows how much receivers get away with. Antonio Brown was one of the best in the league in subtle pushoffs to create separation at the top of the route. But penalties were predictably called at arguably a disproportionate rate against the defense.
According to nflpenalties.com, which does a great job tracking and logging everything, here is the disparity:
OPI: 85 calls (2.6 per team per season)
DPI: 249 calls (7.8 per team per season)
Defenders are still always going to be called more, they simply receive less benefit of the doubt, but maybe the new rules will help even the playing field.
For Haden, a veteran with good technique, he’ll look to avoid as many flags as possible. He was called for pass interference three times last season. That tied the team lead with Artie Burns though obviously, Burns played far fewer snaps and is the much more unrefined corner.