With his two interceptions on Sunday, Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden has now produced five takeaways in 2019, with four interceptions and a forced fumble. Or at least it would be five takeaways had the defense recovered the fumble he forced. His five sits second on the team behind T.J. Watt, who has produced seven with five forced fumbles and two interceptions, and Minkah Fitzpatrick, with six, on the strength of five interceptions and a forced fumble.
These are the guys who have being making plays for the defense. Outside of Bud Dupree’s four forced fumbles, nobody else on the team had more than three combined interceptions and forced fumbles. Rookie Devin Bush has a forced fumble and two interceptions as well.
Haden has seemed rejuvenated ever since he got to Pittsburgh, but this season, now at the age of 30, he has been more successful making plays on the ball than he has in a long time. His four interceptions is tied for the second-most he has ever had in his career (he has six as a rookie in 2010), and the most since 2013.
“Joe studies really hard”, Watt told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette following Sunday’s win. “A lot of people don’t understand the amount of things it takes to see formations and recognize what plays can potentially come out of those formations. It’s one of the best things I see Joe do — the study and preparation throughout the week, and the hard work pays off”.
His first of two interceptions on the night was certainly a product of a good amount of tape study. He saw enough to understand the tendencies of the Arizona Cardinals offense, and he was able to make a jump on a route to pick it off.
Fitzpatrick has eight fewer years of experience in the game than Haden has, so it’s understandable that the second-year safety might look up to him a bit. “He’s Joe Haden, he’s going to be a future Hall of Famer”, he said, though that is a bit of a stretch. “He’s smart, fast, you never see him out of position. He makes plays and turnovers when you need him”.
At least, he has been recently. He knows that he has missed a number of interceptions over the course of the past two seasons. He even said prior to his game-clinching interception last week against the Cincinnati Bengals that he put extra time on the JUGs machine after missing a couple of opportunities to take the ball away the game prior to that.
Suffice it to say, he ought to keep on with whatever he has been doing the past two weeks.