Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: CB Joe Haden
Stock Value: Even
Reasoning: While statistically Joe Haden had a greater impact during the 2019 season due to his takeaways, his level of play last year was roughly on par, without displaying an obvious drop in quality of indications that he is slipping and nearing the end of his ability to be a starter.
The Steelers don’t dip their toes into the free agency waters as most other teams do, and truth be told, they have a spotty record when they do it just like everybody else. But man, there are few in recent years who have made as much of an impact as Joe Haden’s signing in 2017. James Farrior is the only off the top of my head that I would put above in importance, but I’m not wracking my brain for answers, either.
And the best thing about Haden is, of course, the fact that he is still playing well, into his 30s. He now has played four seasons with the Steelers, and in all of them, he was the best cornerback on the team, somebody by a good margin. Even the best defensive back overall sometimes, and one of their overall defenders.
Haden’s signing transformed the secondary, though of course Minkah Fitzpatrick’s addition in 2019 really solidified everything going in a new and positive direction. Now he’ll be heading into his fifth season in Pittsburgh after having already spent seven in Cleveland, and that’s an impressive feat for such an athletically demanding position.
Why am I discussing such a broad history with Haden? Because that’s the point. Who he is now is who he has been for some time now, since arriving in Pittsburgh, and that’s a good thing. ‘Even’ is good in this case. He is who the Steelers have needed him to be.
How much longer can he continue to play at his current level? That is the debate. It’s pretty rare for a cornerback to play at his natural position into his mid-30s. Even Rod Woodson shifted to safety, and I don’t know if that’s in the cards for Haden. But there are no obvious warning signs of him suddenly dropping off in play right now.