The Pittsburgh Steelers just lost a lot of experience in their secondary this offseason, parting with both cornerbacks Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton, the latter through free agency and the former as a casualty of the salary cap. Their options in replacing the pair are limited, and much less experienced.
But they still fall back on the depth of experience of their leader in the secondary, Joe Haden, as he marches into his 12th NFL season, and fifth with the team. A former first-round pick, and a former Cleveland Brown, Haden has been at this game for quite a long time, and is still playing at a pretty high level.
Combined with his longevity and ability, he is just one of three players since 2013, over the past eight years, to register at least 100 passes defensed during that time—or as Haden himself said a “whole lotta clamps going on”.
Whole lotta clamps going on!!! 🙌🏽💯✊🏽🔒 https://t.co/cfWEluGfiq
— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) May 27, 2021
That little statistical nugget was relayed by Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports. While he does not provide a source for that information, it is likely, or at least possibly, Pro Football Reference and Stathead, as their numbers align.
Haden ranks third in passes defensed over the past eight seasons with 101 during that time, trailing only Darius Slay and Janoris Jenkins, with 110 and 104, respectively. Slay entered the NFL in 2013, while Jenkins arrived in 2012.
Since coming to Pittsburgh, Haden has averaged 12 passes defensed per year, with 48 in total, though 14 per 16 games, as he has missed eight. 12 passes defensed per season is just slightly below the pace that he set with the Browns during his seven seasons there. He recorded 101 passes defensed in his time in Ohio, averaging 14.4 per season, or an impressive 18 per 16 games.
While he recorded at least 18 passes defensed in four of his first five seasons, he has eclipsed the mark of 12 just once since then, doing so in 2019 with 17. That year, he also had five interceptions, the second-most in his career, and made the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2014, third time overall.
Haden is very much the savvy veteran who has used his brains as much as his physical abilities to stay competitive into his 30s, adapting his techniques over the course of his career as he loses a quarter of a step here and there.
Many cornerbacks as they get older might move to the slot or to the safety position, but Haden remains their clear-cut number one outside cornerback, and this year, may even go back to being used as their cover corner, following a team’s best receiver, something they moved away from the past two years when they signed Nelson.