The resurgence of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the role that their defense has played through that process, has been one of the biggest stories around the NFL over the course of the past month. Not only have they been playing well as a group, they have been consistently getting standout performances from a variety of contributors depending upon the week.
Already, two Steelers have received Defensive Player of the Week acknowledgements, those being Devin Bush back in Week Six and Bud Dupree for Week Nine. Frankly, there are at least two or three from Sunday’s win over the Los Angeles Rams who should qualify, including Minkah Fitzpatrick.
One of the other two at least made Pro Football Focus’ Team of the Week for Week 10, that being Joe Haden, who is coming off of what is probably the best game that he has had in several years, including tying his career high with five passes defensed.
Earning the spot as the ‘flex’ secondary defender, Austin Gayle wrote of him, “Haden played his best game as a Steeler on Sunday. He recorded a 91.6 overall game and a 90.9 coverage grade against Los Angeles. He allowed just five receptions for 51 yards from 10 targets and recorded three pass breakups in addition to his interception”.
Obviously, there is a discrepancy between how PFF classifies breakups and how other outlets do. The league’s website credits Haden with five passes defensed, including the interception, rather than the four of PFF. But nevertheless, the point is that he got his hands on a lot of footballs.
On the season, he has now recorded 47 tackles with a forced fumble, an interception, and nine total passes defensed. This is following a 2018 season in which he registered 63 tackles with a forced fumble, two interceptions, and 12 total passes defensed.
Haden reached at least 18 passes defensed in four of his first five seasons, but had not exceeded the 12 that he had last year since then. He is currently on-pace to record 16 passes defensed, which would be the most since Keenan Lewis had 23 in 2012.
He shouldn’t have been on his own on this list, however, T.J. Watt ought to have been there, as well, after recording another two sacks and a forced fumble. But Justin Houston of the Indianapolis Colts and Jadeveon Clowney of the Seattle Seahawks instead were recognized as the edge defenders for the week. I’m sure it was close.