New series we’ll conduct throughout the offseason. A review of individual players’ seasons, looking at their good, bad, role, and future with the team.
Here, we’re taking a look at CB Joe Haden.
Joe Haden – Cornerback (Entering 13th Season)
Pros: Ultra-savvy veteran player. High football IQ, understands tendencies, route combinations, and how quarterbacks/offenses think. Solid Cover 3 corner with good angles to ball, able to midpoint against dual vertical routes. Able to anticipate and jump routes to make up for eroding athleticism. Technically sound player in all that he does. Rarely out of position or misses an assignment. Effective use of speed turn to get back in-phase. Plays ball well in the air and competitive at catch-point. Rarely out of phase over a technique issue (doesn’t turn head too early to find ball, etc). Works hard to recover when beat and doesn’t give up on play.
Sound run defender, one of the better run-stopping CBs in the league. Physical, sacrifices his body, willing and able to take on pullers, and a good wrap & roll tackler who gets bigger people down. Run fits are sound and he does his job. Able to punch the ball out. Locker room and positional leader, selfless mentor who brings young guys along. Great teammate and a pro’s pro. Tough, fiery player.
Notable Clips (Veteran Coverage Savvy):
Cons: Aging player who is losing speed. Struggles to match routes vertically without a cushion/bail technique. Has trouble recovering against double-moves because of lack of straight-line speed. Bailed out by underthrows when beaten in 2021. More of a liability in man than zone coverage. Durability concerns, struggling with injuries more in recent years. Has played different roles in past years but played nearly exclusively at one spot in recent years (left, outside corner). Playmaking numbers have been on the decline.
Notable Clips (Getting Beat Deep):
Role: Starting left cornerback in 2021. 613 defensive snaps this past year. 97.6% of time came at LCB, 1.5% at RCB, 1,0% at NCB. Started 12 games. Missed a month with a mid-foot sprain. 103.3 QB rating against when targeted up from 83.2 in 2020. Blitzed just once this season (Week 9 vs. Bears). Second-most combined run tackles of an outside corner since 2019 (55), only trailing Charvarius Ward (76).
Did not record an INT in a season in which he played in 6+ games for only second time of career (2011). INT and PD numbers have declined since 2019. 5 INTs in 2019, 2 in 2020, 0 in 2021. 17 PDs in 2019, 12 in 2020, 6 in 2021. Worst start to PD ratio in career (12 starts, six deflections).
Future: Pending free agent. It’s unclear if Haden will re-sign with the team. He has a desire to stay with the Steelers but the team may choose to keep a younger, more athletic corner in Ahkello Witherspoon over him instead. Haden is a glue-guy and key locker room presence whose career has been extended by his football IQ and technique.
But he’s set to turn 33 and can’t run like he used to. That won’t improve with age, making it hard to believe he can be an outside corner for much longer. Perhaps he should consider a transition to FS, where his skillset would allow him to play at a high level for the next 2-3 years if his body holds up.