As the Pittsburgh Steelers have said of late as it pertains to the cornerback position, if you can’t draft ‘em, sign ‘em. That is what they have done in recent years, cementing their best starting cornerback tandem of perhaps the past decade in Joe Haden and Steven Nelson, the latter having been added as an unrestricted free agent last offseason. Haden, a former Pro Bowler with the Cleveland Browns, is already on his second contract in Pittsburgh.
The two of them together, along with a strong front seven and an All-Pro safety behind them, forged a strong duo on the back end, which they believe is continuing to be overlooked in NFL circles. On Tuesday, talking to reporters, Haden, who did make the Pro Bowl last season as an alternate, believes 2020 is Nelson’s time. He spoke at length about their relationship as a duo and as teammates.
“You’ve got to have confidence. And then you’ve got to be able to just know that you feel like you can cover anyone at any time, and at the same time, not being cocky and not being able to not do it”, he said of what it takes to be a good cornerback, and how Nelson is one.
“I feel like Steve is a baller. He has very, very quick feet, and he has that mentality that he can cover anyone”, he explained. “And he’s not too smart to think he knows everything. Any time, he’s always asking me, like, ‘Joe, why do you play stuff like that?’, and just concepts and just being able to just chop it up with ball. It’s not too many dudes that I’ve met that’ve been like Steve that is just this talented and still open for coaching from another player, or just information from another player”.
“I think he’s gonna be a really, really—I mean, I think he’s already a great corner”, Haden continued. “I think he’s gonna start getting the recognition he deserves, just because he lines up against the best receivers also, and stays right in front of him. He’s one of the quickest corners I’ve seen, and he’s just getting better, just starting to read concepts and routes. We just talk ball a lot, and it’s just a good relationship”.
One of the reasons that the Steelers sought Nelson in free agency is because they were looking for somebody who could add impact plays. The team only had 15 takeaways all of last season. Nelson only had one interception last season (and a fumble recovery), but they know that he can offer more than that. He had four in the season prior to his joining the Steelers.
Perhaps most importantly, Haden and Nelson have forged a great relationship, the camaraderie of which is manifesting itself positively on the field, both between each other and within the secondary as a whole.