It’s good to be Joe Haden lately. He’s gotten three interceptions in the last 62 minutes of football in which he’s played, two of which sealed victories on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ final defensive snap. He now has four interceptions on the season, third-most in the NFL and the most he’s had since 2013, the most by a Steelers quarterback in…a long time.
It’s quite striking to think at this point that Haden is the longest-tenured member of the starting secondary, depending on where and when you want to place Mike Hilton. But it’s clear that he was the first piece of an entirely rebuilt puzzle that saw them draft strong safety Terrell Edmunds in the first round last year, then sign Steven Nelson at cornerback this offseason and finally acquire first-round free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick via trade.
This secondary is the best and most talented that they have had in a decade or more, to be certain, and it all started with Haden, who has become a leader on the team in a short amount of time. After spending seven years with the Cleveland Browns, he very much feels at home in Pittsburgh, and the city feels the same way about him. Especially when he locks down wins.
He told Missi Matthews following Sunday’s win over the Arizona Cardinals, “we’re super excited” about the rest of the season and where it might lead. “Just trying to keep this train rolling. Can’t wait to get back to practice, start studying the tape. Coach T, he always gives us great gameplans, so I know he’s gonna be ready for those Wednesday meetings”.
Following their third consecutive victory and seven of their last eight games, the Steelers are now 8-5 on the season and poised to face the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night with control of the fifth seed in the AFC on the line. Pittsburgh is currently in control of the sixth seed over the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans.
The Titans and Texans face one another this week, so, barring a tie, one of them will be knocked a game back. If the Steelers can keep pace with the victor in that game and knock the Bills down to 9-5 with the other two, they will be in great shape to make the postseason with the New York Jets and the Baltimore Ravens awaiting to wrap up the season.
And so much of that is due to the play of the defense. If they can manage to get just barely competent performances from the offense and occasionally above the line play from the special teams units, Haden’s group has the sort of ability to carry this team into the postseason.