The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Joe Haden has at least a couple of seasons of high-level play left in him.
Explanation: Though it came as an alternate, Joe Haden joined three of his defensive teammates last year as a Pro Bowler for the Steelers’ defense, one of whom was new safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Both of them recorded five interceptions and a forced fumble during the year.
Since being signed by the Steelers in 2017, Haden has been the Steelers’ best cornerback, and while that admittedly hasn’t always been saying a lot, the fact of the matter is that the secondary has gotten a lot better with him in it.
He only turned 31 years old in April, and in fact is in better shape than he was before Pittsburgh signed him. He has had some injuries while with the Steelers, but he has gotten over some of the chronic issues that plagued the latter stages of his Browns career that had people wondering if his time was up.
No longer an elite-level athlete, Haden has successfully adapted his game to one that relies more on fundamentals and knowledge, and with the improvements in the defense as a whole, especially with the pass rusher putting more pressure on the quarterbacks and the safeties being solidified, he should have no problem holding things down for a few more years.
There might not be another position in football, perhaps short of running back, that is more subject to precipitous decline in performance as is cornerback. It’s not entirely like a young speedball pitcher in baseball who can round out his repertoire and redefine himself. There is a baseline level of athleticism required to play the position at a high level that can’t be made up for with ‘savvy’.
We have seen many signs of the impending decline in Haden during his three seasons in Pittsburgh. We don’t know exactly when the proverbial floodgates will open, but they will eventually, and it could be in the near future. This is why the Steelers haven’t been ignoring the draft, adding Justin Layne last year. And, of course, signing Steven Nelson in free agency.