There probably aren’t a ton of players who have a better perspective on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s career than veteran cornerback Joe Haden, who spent a lot of time playing against him in the division, and then a lot of time as his teammate. With the expectation that this is Roethlisberger’s final season, with Monday his final home game, there is a lot of reflection going on, and Haden was asked for a particular memory of the future Hall of Famer.
“Just all the times when I was following [Antonio Brown], playing against him back in the day, from 2010 to I would say 2014”, Haden recalled in speaking t. Those were games where sometimes he would be getting the best of me and I would have great coverage on him, and he would still catch the ball, still score, and it was very annoying. That was the main thing. With him and their relationship, him and AB, going at me”.
I’m not quite sure why he specified that particular range, considering 2015 and 2016 were some of Brown’s best seasons, though he did miss most of the 2015 season due to injury. By 2017, of course, he was teammates with Roethlisberger and Brown, though the latter would go AWOL at the end of the 2018 season.
Both Haden and Brown were drafted in 2010, the former in the first round and the latter in the sixth. Haden was an instant-impact player and quickly became a Pro Bowler. It took Brown a couple of years to find a consistent role, but he developed into one of the very best offensive players in the game.
Brown continues to play at a high level on the football field when he is available from both a health and disciplinary point of view, especially as one of the great route-runners of the game. Now the Steelers have Diontae Johnson as a wide receiver who is excellent at creating separation with the nuance in his routes.
Maybe if this were the Roethlisberger of a decade ago, they could put up similar numbers. As it is, Johnson already has over 1000 yards this season and is on track to top 100 receptions, which would make him just the fourth player in team history to do so.
That’s a perspective that is important for both Roethlisberger and Haden as they near the end of their respective careers: the game moves on without them, one way or another, for better or for worse. Very few players play for a long time and manage to go out on their own terms without compromise. There aren’t many John Elway stories. And Roethlisberger won’t be getting his.