For five seasons veteran NFL cornerback Joe Haden had an up close and personal look at one of the league’s best pass rushers and an absolute game-wrecker in Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt.
In those five seasons together, Haden watched Watt destroy NFL offensive tackles week after week, racking up 72.0 sacks, winning the 2021 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award and changing a number of games in the Steelers’ favor, making things slightly easier on the back end for Haden and the rest of the Steelers’ secondary.
Appearing on The Pat McAfee Show Monday to discuss his retirement announcement and give his take on the Steelers start to the season at 1-2, Haden stated he believes in the Steelers despite the tough start due to Mike Tomlin, and that without the “outerworldly” Watt, the Steelers have a huge hole defensively.
“Outerworldly, like literally, he’s unbelievable. And it’s every single game,” Haden said to McAfee and co-host A.J. Hawk. “Like when I was there, when I would watch like him and Antonio Brown, it would just be spectacular plays every single game. …That’s just what they do. So when I see him like that, you know he’s going to make a play.
“If he looks at you like, ‘Joe, I’m about to make something happen,’ I’m like, ‘oh my God, he’s about to be about to strip sack someone.'”
More often than not, Watt made something big happen, forcing a turnover, creating a short field for the Steelers’ offense, and really changing the outcome of the game single-handedly.
Haden was a great player in his own right for 12 seasons, including the last five in Pittsburgh. He knows about game-changing plays and special overall talent, and that’s what he saw for five seasons with Watt lined up in front of him, racing off the line, bending the edge and getting to quarterbacks in an absurdly consistent fashion.
Without Watt the last two games after he suffered a pectoral injury late in the Week 1 win in overtime over the Cincinnati Bengals, the Steelers’ defense hasn’t been the same from a pass rush and run defense standpoint. In the last two weeks — both losses — the Steelers haven’t been able to generate a pass rush, recording just two sacks in two games, and have given up far too many rushing yards as the Patriots and Browns milked the clock late on the ground.
Hopefully once he turns from injury, Watt gets back to that outerworldly level of play and drags the Steelers to success with him.