Thirty has been a dangerous number for cornerbacks. As the game gets younger and younger, many fear that age 30 has been a death kiss for cornerbacks. They begin to lose speed, short area quickness and are just a step behind the newer and faster receivers coming into the league. Pittsburgh Steelers’ cornerback Joe Haden just finished his age-30 season and he not only had an excellent season but he also silenced any doubt about the possibility of him losing a step.
Haden made 30 look like 25 this season as he found his way to the football at a rate that he has not seen in quite some time. He registered five interceptions this season, just one behind the NFL lead and he also recorded 17 passes defended, fourth most in the NFL. While his production would be incredible for any defensive back, it becomes even more incredible when factoring in his age. Not many defensive backs have been able to produce at the level that Haden played at this season, especially not many in their thirties.
Up until this season, there had been only four defensive backs aged 30 or older to record five interceptions and 17 passes defended in a season. Haden now becomes the fifth defensive back to put up such numbers, joining the likes of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Asante Samuels, Carlos Rogers and Charles Woodson. Throughout all of NFL history, there have only been 23 defensive backs to replicate Haden’s numbers in their thirties. The veteran cornerback also becomes the first Steelers’ defensive back to crack the list.
The Steelers took a risk when they penned Haden to a new contract extension that would pay him into his thirties last September but so far the deal has looked excellent. The 30-year old cornerback has found the fountain of youth and has been able to bring an element of ball skills to the Steelers’ secondary that they have not seen in quite some time.
Coming into this season, the last Steelers defensive back to record five interceptions in a season was Troy Polamalu back in 2010. The last Steelers’ cornerback to grab five interceptions in a season came nearly 20-years ago when Chad Scott grabbed five in 2001.
Playing with perhaps the best secondary he has ever played with, there is no reason to believe that the takeaways will stop anytime soon. Paired up with Steven Nelson and Minkah Fitzpatrick, the Steelers secondary is as stout as it has been in years. The margin for error has become as small as it has ever been for quarterbacks throwing into this secondary and with Nelson, Fitzpatrick and Haden under contract for the next few years, the turnovers should just keep coming.
Haden closed out this decade much like the way he started it. His five interceptions were the most since his rookie season and his 17 passes defended were the most since his age 25 season. With a dominant secondary, Haden will be out to prove once again next season that 30 is in fact the new 20.