Ben Roethlisberger played his final NFL game Sunday night. Though he might be the only one in that camp, there are several other players who just suited up for the Pittsburgh Steelers one final time. Leading the rest of that list is CB Joe Haden. Nearly 33 and set to be a free agent, his return to Pittsburgh has been questionable since extension talks went nowhere in the summer.
Moments after the game, Haden took to Twitter to thank Steelers’ Nation and leave the question of his future open-ended.
His caption reads:
“Steelers Nation….. I love u Guys! The Love I have felt from day One here has been unbelievable and I can’t thank you guys enough! We will see what the future holds! #GoldsPlan #ImNotDoneBalling!”
Clearly, Haden isn’t thinking about retirement like Roethlisberger is. But whether or not his career will continue in Pittsburgh is up in the air. It’s one of several key choices the Steelers will have to make this offseason. While Haden has expressed a desire to return to the team in he past, he and agent Drew Rosenhaus announced this summer they planned to test free agency come the offseason. A little bit of hard-ball after any extension talks fell through but it’s certainly plausible this is Haden’s last game with the team.
He signed with the Steelers in 2017, days after getting cut by the Cleveland Browns. A steady cornerback in his play and presence, Sunday night served as just the second career playoff game he’s played in. Unfortunately, they’ve both been losses where the defense has allowed 40+ points, 45 to Jacksonville in 2017 and 42 to Kansas City Sunday night.
One player going to bat for Haden’s return is Cam Heyward, who said he’d lobby Haden to stay in Pittsburgh just as he convinced Tyson Alualu to do in 2021.
“Joe is a guy ever since he got here, I’ve just been appreciative of him,” an emotional Heyward said post-game. “A lot of unknown. But a guy like Joe Haden, he brings so much to the team that people don’t even see. During the week of practice getting guys up to speed. Making sure collectively we are good on the back end. I would love to have Joe back, but that’s not my decision.”
Young players like Tre Norwood and James Pierre have praised the veteran presence Haden has been to them. A leadership vacuum in the secondary would open up if Haden left. The question the Steelers will have to ask themselves is if he’s worth the money not for his past play but future production. With Ahkello Witherspoon playing well down the stretch, Pittsburgh may opt to keep a younger and more athletic option. It’s one of several offseason questions looming over this franchise as their offseason officially begins.