It might be Duck season, but Joe Haden is sure coming up big for the Pittsburgh Steelers defense. Over the course of the past two games, he has now intercepted three passes, nearly doubling his total from his entire time with the Steelers prior to that.
After recording a game-ending interception against Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns a week ago, he did it again, this time to Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals, out west. And that was his second of the game. It’s his third multi-interception game of his career, and his first with the Steelers.
That’s the second time in as many weeks that Haden has iced the game against a first-overall pick, Mayfield selected in 2018 and Murray in 2019. That’s a really obscure stat, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it’s a first.
The question now becomes, is he putting himself in position to make a run at the Pro Bowl? He has 58 tackles on the season with a forced fumble, four interceptions, and 15 total passes defensed. But that’s not their focus right now.
They have a clear mission, and that’s to make it to the postseason. This week, they strengthened their case, and got a bit of help, though not where they could have used it most. The two 6-6 teams both lost, including the Indianapolis Colts, setting them further ahead in the pack, but the other 6-6 team, the Oakland Raiders, lost to the Tennessee Titans, who now keep pace at 8-5.
That sets up a huge game in prime time next week against the Buffalo Bills, whose loss sets them down to 9-4 and sets up that game with the number five seed on the line. If the Steelers win, they would be in the driver’s seat—at least I believe so, not including potential three-way tiebreakers with the Titans. But they should win any tiebreakers as well.
Back to Haden, he is having his best season in a number of years, going several years deep back into his time with the Browns. His four interceptions are the most he has had in a single season since 2013, which is one of the two seasons in which he reached the Pro Bowl.
The fact that he has made some of these plays at crucial, high-profile moments in the game just adds to the feat. And the fact that Kyler Murray, despite being a rookie, had been one of the surest passers in protecting the football on the season, was the one he picked off, is a bonus as well.
Remaining on the table are a trio of second-year quarterbacks in Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, and Lamar Jackson. Can he get another interception off of one of them? Frankly, the Steelers may well need it. But they have been pretty consistently getting what they need lately, and Haden has been among those supplying it.