The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex earlier than they had anticipated, having been ousted from the postseason in the opening round, which unfortunately marks the fifth consecutive season in which they failed to win a postseason game—a new record for the franchise since the merger. Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we.
The Steelers did arguably perform at or above expectations this year by going 9-7-1 and making the postseason at all, a reflection of just how much talent they lost during the offseason, from the majority of the offensive line to Mike Hilton, Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Vince Williams—not to mention Stephon Tuitt, essentially.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between head coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2021 season.
Player: Joe Haden
Experience: 12 Years
Twelve years in the NFL is a long time, no matter what position you play. It can feel longer for some than others. Playing cornerback as an outside starter for a dozen years is a truly remarkable feat. And Steelers cornerback Joe Haden certainly has a lot to be proud of.
But, soon to be 33 years old in April, one has to wonder how much longer he can play. Prior to last season, Haden talked about how he wants no part of changing his role, whether that’s to work in the slot or to play safety. He more or less said that he would retire before moving out of the starting lineup on the outside.
It remains to be seen what kind of market awaits the three-time Pro Bowler next month, assuming that the Steelers don’t complete a contract with him before then—and I don’t expect that they will. He signed a two-year, $22 million extension a couple years back, but this is new territory.
As far as impact goes, that’s an area in which Haden lacked in 2021. Aside from the fact that he missed five games due to injury—including a Lisfranc foot injury that wiped him out for a four-game stretch in the middle of the year, he failed to record an interception for the first time in a season in which he played at least half the games for only the second time in his career. And his six passes defensed were a career-low under the same conditions.
He also allowed completions at a higher rate than at any other point in his Steelers career, though not with an excess amount of touchdowns allowed. His missed tackle rate was a bit up, but not in an alarming way.
Could he still play and start for another year or two? It’s absolutely a possibility. He also offers a lot more in a locker room than just what he does on the field. I’m sure the Steelers want to keep Haden in the organization. But what price will they be willing to pay for a cornerback who offers diminishing returns on the field? Especially with Ahkello Witherspoon also hitting free agency? It would certainly be a bit of an end of an era if this is it for Haden in Pittsburgh.