When you’re coming off a season in which your unit finished in the top five, and became the first team ever to formally lead the league in both sacks and interceptions, you can make the case that you have an argument to be confident in your future. When you have a renaissance season in which you make the Pro Bowl in your 10th campaign for the first time in years, you can go ahead and feel good about yourself.
That’s where Joe Haden is entering his 11th season in 2020, and his fourth with the Pittsburgh Steelers (also the first of a two-year extension he signed in August). The team took a major turn for the better on the defensive side of the ball in 2019, and Haden has no time for being bashful about his love for his group and his belief in himself and his brothers in that locker room.
“I expect in 2020 for our defense to be the best defense in the league”, he said for a short NFL.com segment for NFL at Home. “We already have the best defensive line I feel like in the league with T.J. and then Bud came out crazy. Cam Heyward. We’ve got Tuitt coming back. “And the secondary with Terrell, with Steve, with Mike Hilton. We’ve just got a bunch of guys that are balling & that are coming into their primes. When you’ve got a group of dudes like that, that just want to be the best, it’s going to be something special”.
The Steelers sent one player from each level of the defense to the first-team All-Pro list with Cameron Heyward representing the defensive line, T.J. Watt representing the linebackers, and Minkah Fitzpatrick representing the secondary. They were the only team in the league who could claim that for last season, and were in fact the only team to have three defensive All-Pros.
All three are returning, and there’s no reason to believe that any of them should be expected to play at anything but a comparable level to last season. And as Haden said, there are still many players on the rise, or in their primes, like Hilton, Dupree, Edmunds, Nelson—and Devin Bush, a big name that he didn’t end up mentioning.
Let’s just put it this way. Maybe they won’t end up being ‘the best defense in the league’ in 2020. That’s a subjective conversation, anyway. But they certainly have all the ingredients to be that team, and it’s entirely possible that they will be. Especially coming into 2020 with the confidence and continuity from the previous year, with only one major departure.