I’ve been talking a lot about a recent interview given by new Pittsburgh Steelers senior defensive assistant Teryl Austin over the course of the past two days. I personally found it to be a professional and lucidly-conducted interview of substance, so I felt it was worth covering in-depth. The one bit of the interview you likely heard of, however, was his comment about Joe Haden and wanting to keep him around.
“Joe’s a really good player. Are you kidding me? I don’t want Joe walking out of here”, he told reporters late last week, via The Fan. “And I don’t get into contract stuff about players, but I just know this: Joe Haden is a very good football player, and I’m glad he’s on our team”.
Haden is entering the final year of a three-year, $27 million contract that he signed roughly two years ago. He is set to make $10 million in base salary for the 2019 season and counts over $11 million against the salary cap. According to reports, the front office is engaging in talks with his representation regarding a contract extension.
While he has been the Steelers’ best defensive back over the course of the two seasons in which he has been here, even allowing the defense to finally employ a roving cornerback again who will spend virtually a full game shadowing an opponent’s best wide receiver, Haden’s value goes beyond his coverage.
Austin was asked about observing Haden helping out some of the other defensive backs on the team. “I think that good vets do that”, he said. “And he’ll talk to young guys, he’ll talk through things. That’s when you know you have a pretty good room, when the veterans kind of embrace the younger guys and they’re all working together”.
That has consistently been who Haden is since he’s gotten here. In particular, he has been very supportive of teammate Artie Burns through his recent struggles, routinely expressing confidence in his ability to turn things around
But there is a certain level at which Haden with his veteran status transcends the rest of the room, almost serving as another assistant himself. “The biggest thing for us is we want it to be a collaborative effort”, Austin said. “We want our guys to work together, because we’re all involved in it, and our success is determined by how all of us do in that room”.
For the moment, every appearance is that the Steelers’ best chance of success beyond the 2019 season is to keep Haden around for at least a couple more years. It’s not clear that Burns, or Cameron Sutton, or even rookie Justin Layne, will be able to step into Haden’s role, let alone out-compete the 30-year-old former Pro Bowler, whose two interceptions led the team in 2018.