Now that the regular season 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 have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season 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 reasoning. 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. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: CB Joe Haden
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The 12th-year veteran cornerback will be playing in just his second postseason game ever today, and continues to be a central part of the Steelers’ defense.
A first-round pick by the Cleveland Browns back in 2010, cornerback Joe Haden was a part of a lot of bad, bad teams. In his seven seasons there, before they released him, the Browns never made the postseason. In fact, last season was the first time they qualified since 2002.
The Steelers have only been to the postseason three times in his five seasons here, however, admittedly, and that includes this year. They reached last year, but he missed their one and only postseason game because he was on the Reserve/COVID-19 List.
Haden was already on the Reserve/COVID-19 list a week ago, but only stayed there a few days. More significantly, he has already worked through a major foot injury in the middle of the season that caused him to miss four games, but he’s been back and healthy since Week 15.
They have, however, adjusted his role some. Haden is of course a guy who’s used to being on the field every snap. That hasn’t been the case since he returned, though initially it was about easing him back in. The emergence of Ahkello Witherspoon in his absence was a factor in his seeing fewer snaps. But he did play 97 percent of the snaps in Week 17, before he missed time last week due to COVID-19.
What kind of playing time will he be in for today? Given that this is a new tournament, we shouldn’t walk in expecting to see exactly what we saw in the regular season, especially since the Steelers will be facing opponents they have already seen this year. They may have different alignments in the secondary. How that affects Haden, we’ll see.
But you can bet he’s sure glad to be out there. He’ll be 33 in April, at which point he’ll likely be on another team, if he does indeed decide to play, and whether or not he’s on a contending roster, who knows. Perhaps not if, as he said this offseason, he’s only willing to be a full-time outside starter.