Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment and 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: Up
Reasoning: There was at least at some level, I’m fairly certain, a decision that the organization had to make this offseason as to whether to keep Steven Nelson or Joe Haden, both of whom had among the largest moveable cap hits this year. They opted for the latter.
Joe Haden posted very similar numbers in 2020 to what he did in 2018. In both years, he recorded two interceptions with 12 passes defensed, with 50-plus tackles and two tackles for loss. He has been a pretty consistently positive contributor for the Steelers since he first signed in 2017.
He also very quickly became one of the most respected players within the organization, though that wasn’t difficult given that he was a player who had already commanded a significant level of respect throughout his NFL career as a former Pro Bowler and top-ten draft pick.
Yet, like Steven Nelson, he was owed a substantial amount of money this season, in a year in which the Steelers have been in very dire straits as far as the salary cap is concerned. They were fortunate to have Vance McDonald and Maurkice Pouncey retire for them, just so they wouldn’t have had to release them outright.
Pittsburgh still needed to make a couple of cap-related cuts. They chose Nelson as one of those cuts, even though he has been a strong starter since the Steelers signed him two years ago. Implicitly, that decision is an endorsement of Haden, going into his fifth season with the Steelers.
Haden will turn 32 years old tomorrow. That’s really pushing the shelf life of the average starting cornerback. But the Steelers are still keeping him around, and chose to do so in favor of a fairly significantly younger proven starter. I think that counts for something, at least.