With all the attention and focus on Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger riding off into the sunset at the end of a remarkable 18-year NFL career in Pittsburgh, the pending loss of veteran cornerback Joe Haden seems to be getting overlooked.
Haden, who spent the last five seasons in Pittsburgh after being a surprise camp cut in 2017 by the Cleveland Browns, helped transform the Steelers’ defense from a good one to great from 2018-2020, recording 10 interceptions and 54 passes defensed in five seasons in the black and gold.
Though his time is technically at an end in Pittsburgh as he gets set for free agency in early March, Haden continues to receive a ton of praise from teammates for his leadership, football IQ and ability to communicate clearly on the field.
Tuesday, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick called Haden one of his favorite players to ever play with, which is high praise for the veteran cornerback.
“Yeah, Joe is probably one of my favorite players to ever play with,” Fitzpatrick said to reporters Tuesday, according to video via Steelers.com. “Not just because of the player that he is, but because of the man that he is, the energy that he brings to the locker and the passion…he loves the game of football. You know what I’m saying?
There’s not too many 10-year vets who have made over a hundred mil that are loving the game and playing and practicing, having as much fun as he has out there every day, whether it’s practice, whether it’s in the game; he loves the game,” Fitzpatrick added. “He has fun. Like I said, he’s a vet, he’s a smart guy. He’s a leader in the locker room. Young guys gravitate to him because of that passion that he brings. He’s a guy that I really enjoy playing with.”
Fitzpatrick’s comments match the comments made in recent weeks by teammates Cameron Heyward, T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, which shows how beloved Haden is in the locker room and how valued he is on the Steelers’ defense. Though he has undoubtedly lost a step in his game and isn’t the same high-level cornerback he once was early in his career, there’s something to be said for how his teammates feel about him and what he brings to the table between the whistles from a leadership and communication standpoint.
Will that matter in the end when it comes to contact negotiations? Probably not, but it’s worth noting how his teammates — the ones who spend the most time around him — feel about him as he’s set to hit the open market.