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
Who would have thought that a cornerback (relatively) soon to be 31 years old would see his stock trending upward? Even those who believed Joe Haden still had a lot left in the tank when the team originally signed him probably didn’t think he would have his best season in a while going into his 10th season, which is what we saw in 2019.
And which is what got him back to the Pro Bowl. Admittedly, he was not voted in outright, but rather made it in as an alternate after Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters backed out of the event due to injury after his team lost in the Divisional Round.
It was the third Pro Bowl of his career, but his first since 2014, and he told reporters down in Orlando that this one probably meant more to him than the first one he made. It brought tears to his eyes when he first learned he would be going to the game, recalling when the Cleveland Browns released him in August of 2017 and the prevailing opinion seeming to be that he was done.
While he hasn’t been flawless in his three seasons with Pittsburgh, he has provided generally consistent and solid play at the left cornerback position, stabilizing a crucial part of the secondary that frankly had been in flux prior to his arrival.
And he really made a difference this past season, recording five interceptions, the most by a Steelers cornerback since Chad Scott had five back in 2001. He and Dewayne Washington both had five in 2000, and Washington also had five in 1998. Rod Woodson, Mel Blount, Jack Butler, and Dwayne Woodruff are the only Steelers cornerbacks to do it more than twice (both Butler and safety Donnie Shell did it six times).
But it’s not just that for Haden. He’s still retaining the bulk of his athleticism, and has picked up his craftiness to stay with receivers. He gives maximum effort in run support, and the boost that he gives in the locker room as a leader is unquantifiable. Younger players have been looking toward him since the first time he stepped in the locker room, and his role has only grown immensely since then.