Now that training camp is underway, and the roster for 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 move forward.
Player: CB Joe Haden
Stock Value: Up
I haven’t studied in depth every single pairing that Joe Haden has ever worked with, but I’m willing to wager that Steven Nelson has been one of the better cornerbacks that he has worked with. While he is past his ‘shutdown corner’ days, teams still didn’t target him as much as they have this year, in part due to the other side being a less appealing target than it has been in the recent past.
He has responded with his best season yet in Pittsburgh, at the age of 30. It’s also the healthiest that he’s been as well. He’s still had some highs and lows, of course—that’s going to come to just about any cornerback at this stage in his career—but he’s been vital to the success of this defense, without a doubt.
And he finally got his signature play, recording the game-sealing interception against his former team on Sunday, playing at Heinz Field hosting the Cleveland Browns. After spending his first seven season there, they unceremoniously released him in late August.
The Steelers signed him by the end of that day to a three-year deal. Considering they gave him a two-year extension prior to the start of the season, it’s safe to say that they feel that arrangement has worked out pretty well for them.
He has also been getting closer to the ball as the season has gone on. Over the course of the past four games, he has nine passes defensed, including two interceptions. He has four more games to top his highest output since joining Pittsburgh if he can nab a third takeaway.
Getting close hasn’t been the problem. He knows that. He said after Sunday’s game that he hit the JUGs machine hard this past week because he had a couple of shots at interceptions the week before that he failed to close.
If the Steelers are going to make any kind of run this year, the coverage is going to be vital to those efforts. Haden is playing about as well as he has since arriving to Pittsburgh, and he needs to keep that up for sure.