I want you to take a deep breath and relax. Now I want you to lie down on your back and slowly count down from 100. Once you fall asleep, I want you to verbalize what you’re dreaming. Is it something imaginable in reality? Do the Pittsburgh Steelers have two competent starting cornerbacks?
Believe it or not, this isn’t happening only in your dreams anymore, because that is exactly what they have in Joe Haden and Steven Nelson, thanks to the front office’s willingness to invest in the free agency market following numerous failures to acquire and develop talent at the position through the NFL Draft.
While Minkah Fitzpatrick rightfully gets a lot of credit for helping to turn the Steelers’ secondary into one of the top units in the NFL, Nelson’s signing earlier in the offseason played a huge role, too, and in conjunction with the fact that they already had Haden on the other side. With those two and Mike Hilton having a strong year in the slot, things are really looking a lot different than they usually have in the back end in recent years.
And the coolest thing is that their two starting cornerbacks have a great relationship, but that should be no surprise given how amiable Haden has been throughout his career. It wasn’t long before he became a leader on the team when he was signed in August of 2017, and now he is one of the most important voices in the locker room, which Nelson respects and appreciates.
“Joe is my guy. We are like Batman and Robin”, he told reporters recently, via the Steelers’ webste. “Ever since I got to Pittsburgh, he has been a genuine guy, all around, on and off the field. We bounce off each other. We are both highly competitive guys. We feed each other on the field. If he makes a play, I feel like I have to make a play. We pair together very well”.
While Haden has the sexy statistic of five interceptions to Nelson’s one, Nelson also was not charged with giving up a touchdown all of last season, while, per Pro Football Reference, Haden gave up five. Both of them, however, managed to surrender fewer than 500 yards in coverage while allowing a catch rate of around 50 percent. Both posted a quarterback rating against of roughly 66.
And both are under contract for the next two seasons. While the Steelers have a couple of young cornerbacks waiting in the wings in Cameron Sutton and Justin Layne, these are their two starters, frankly, until they’re not. Nelson is only going into his sixth season, so he could have some time yet, though Haden is now 31 and entering his 11th season, so time will eventually catch up with him.