Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth 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 season and into the offseason 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: Down
Reasoning: Following a season in which he dealt with a major injury—prior to which he did not get a contract extension he was looking for—and the emergence of a potential alternate starter in Ahkello Witherspoon, Haden now finds himself in a situation in which the Steelers may well have to choose one over the other. And I don’t know that he’s the favorite.
Truth be told, I debated on this stock evaluation internally a fair bit, and I’m not sure where the consensus will fall. I think most seem to prefer the idea of re-signing Witherspoon rather than Haden if both cannot be kept, but Haden has meant a lot to this secondary, this team, and this city over the past five years.
Since brought in in 2017, Haden has recorded nearly 250 tackles with 11 for loss, with 10 interceptions and 54 passes defensed, including a pick-six, in addition to three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries (and what if I recall correctly was a default sack by being the closest person to a quarterback running out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage).
It can be fairly pointed out that the Steelers were not winning much in the games in which Haden did not play last season (they went 1-4-1 in the games he missed or was injured in, and 8-3 when he did play and was healthy).
But we have also witnessed a decline in his play, and he’s going to be 33 now. It’s hard to imagine that they would be willing to sign him to a multi-year contract, especially given that they could potentially keep Ahkello Witherspoon around instead, who will be shortly turning 27 and had three interceptions with nine passes defensed in relatively limited playing time.
It may be that we’ve seen the last of Haden in a Steelers uniform. Personally, I’m rooting for them to find a way to keep both (it’s not as though depth isn’t a concern, after all), one way of doing that being to utilize void years to spread out a cap hit, as they did with Cameron Sutton’s two-year deal in 2021.