Joe Haden has been a model player and a model citizen since he first arrived in Pittsburgh in 2017. The Steelers have paid him accordingly. But five years into their pact together and now at the age of 32, it’s not clear how much time may be remaining between the two parties.
Haden told Mark Kaboly of The Athletic recently that he wanted to get an extension done before the regular season started, but that he understands there’s a queue, and T.J. Watt is clearly ahead of him—also that they have to take Minkah Fitzpatrick’s future into consideration. But his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has made contact with the front office.
While the three-time Pro Bowler has continued to play at a starter level into his 30s, there can be a precipitous drop-off in performance at a position like cornerback. Haden gets this. And he also understands that a position switch is not in the cards for him. Not because it can’t be an option, but because it’s not the reason he plays.
“I want to play until I can’t play. I want to continue to be a No. 1 corner”, he told Kaboly. “Once I feel like I can look at myself on tape and the coach says he doesn’t know if I can start in the NFL anymore on the outside, I am not really a change-position-to-safety kind of guy or going into the nickel. Once I am done as a CB1, at worst a CB2 if there is another good starter like me and Cam [Sutton] right now — once I can’t become an outside starting guy is when it is my time”.
So there’s your answer. I know this conversation has come up several times over the course of the past couple of days, about whether or not Haden could potentially prolong his career by moving to safety, or something like that. The answer, at least for now, is no, because that’s not his game.
Could he have a change of heart when he is staring down the barrel of retirement? I’m certainly not qualified to rule that out, but I would generally take Haden at his word when it comes to his feelings, as somebody who carries himself as a man of personal pride and principles.
Haden has never not been ‘the guy’. As a quarterback and safety, he led his high school to a 14-0 championship season. He was the number three athlete in the country in 2007. He won a BCS title with the Florida Gators and was a top-10 draft pick in 2010.
The moment he realizes that’s not him anymore, he’ll know it’s time to walk away, and let the next guy step up. And you’ve got to respect that. Which, by the way, he thinks could very well be Sutton and James Pierre.