August 30, 2017 proved to be a significant day in the modern history of the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was the day that the Cleveland Browns decided that former Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden was too broken down to continue to command his salary, opting to release him. It was on that same day that the Steelers signed him to a three-year, $27 million contract, instantly becoming the best player in their secondary.
The signing was the first step in revamping the entire secondary that was seemingly completed last season with the acquisition of Steven Nelson in free agency, and then safety Minkah Fitzpatrick via trade. Joined by 2018 first-round pick Terrell Edmunds and veteran slot defender Mike Hilton, Pittsburgh not only had their best secondary in years, but one of the best in the league.
And all of them return for 2020 for an encore performance, with Haden coming off his best season in years, making the Pro Bowl again after intercepting five passes, recorded 17 passes defensed, and registering a forced fumble and fumble recovery, one of four players on defense to post six takeaways or more by themselves.
While he still has love for Cleveland, Haden has made it abundantly clear that he appreciates being in Pittsburgh. Earlier today, he marked the day that he transitioned from one organization to the other, writing on Twitter, “3 years ago today I was cut by the Browns! I knew I had a lot of ball left in me! You gotta believe in yourself!”.
On August 30, 2017… 3 years ago today I was Cut by the Browns! I knew I had a lot of ball left in me! You gotta believe in Yourself! 🙏🏽
— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) August 30, 2020
Three years, 42 games, eight interceptions, and about 150 tackles later, he is the veteran leader of the secondary for the Steelers and one of the team’s leading voices overall. At 31 years of age, entering is fourth season in Pittsburgh, he continues to play at a high level.
Just before the season started a year ago, the Steelers agreed to terms with Haden on a new two-year contract extension worth $22 million in new money, which included nearly $14 million in signing bonus, a huge percentage of guaranteed money by Pittsburgh’s standards for a non-quarterback—and a testament to how much they value him.
Of course, he rewarded them with his best season in the black and gold and one of the best of his entire career. Playing on the best defense he’s even been a part of, there is reason to believe that he can continue to excel and play at a high level through the length of his contract—especially with the strength of the secondary around him, with Nelson, Edmunds, and Fitzpatrick also all controlled for at least the next two seasons.