On Wednesday the Pittsburgh Steelers placed starting cornerback Joe Haden on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, jeopardizing his chances of playing in the regular-season finale at Baltimore on Sunday January 9. That led some to wonder whether the 12-year veteran has already donned the black & gold for the last time.
Not so fast, says Gerry Dulac, who covers the Steelers for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“Even if Haden is unable to clear protocol in time for the Ravens game, do not assume he has played his last game for the Steelers,” wrote Dulac in a tweet.
The implication is that the Steelers are going to attempt to re-sign Haden during this coming offseason, in spite of the fact that that they were unable to work out a contract extension earlier this year.
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Pittsburgh’s Record With and Without Joe Haden
It makes sense that the Steelers would want to retain Haden (who will be 33 in mid-April), though probably only for another year or two. He’s still providing CB1-quality play, though he has been limited to 11 games this season, thanks in large part to a mid-foot sprain suffered against the Detroit Lions on November 14, which caused him to miss four games. He also missed the second game of the regular season (vs. the Las Vegas Raiders) having suffered a groin injury in practice two days prior. That groin issue sidetracked an impressive start to the season. In fact, he was named to the Pro Football Focus Week 1 Team of the Week, having earned the highest coverage grade (88.6) and highest overall grade (85.1) of any cornerback in the league for his efforts in Pittsburgh’s upset victory over the Buffalo Bills.
But nothing illustrates Haden’s value to the team better than Pittsburgh’s record when he is out of the lineup. Over the past two years the Steelers are 19-5-1 in games in which Haden has started, as compared to a woeful 1-7 without him. That includes a 7-3-1 record with him in 2021, vs. 1-4 when he has been sidelined by injury.
Joe Haden: ‘I Want to End My Career Here’
Haden has already said that he would prefer to remain with the Steelers, for whom he has played since 2017, having signed a three-year, $27 million deal with Pittsburgh a day after he was released by the Cleveland Browns. (He went on to sign a two-year extension in September 2019.)
In August 2021, Haden told Mark Kaboly of The Athletic: “I want to end my career here.”
The Steelers no doubt want that too. Keep in mind that when the organization needed to cut salary to get cap compliant during this past offseason, it chose to part ways with CB2 Steven Nelson, despite the fact that Nelson is four years younger.
The challenge for both parties is coming to an agreement on term and compensation, especially difficult in light of the fact that NFL cornerbacks rarely continue to thrive—or even survive—into their mid-thirties.
For what it’s worth, Haden earned a salary of $7 million in 2021 and had a cap number of $15.575 million (per overthecap.com), the latter figure second-highest on the team behind quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Haden spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Browns after Cleveland drafted him No. 7 overall out of the University of Florida in 2010. Haden has played in 157 career games with 148 starts. He has recorded 611 tackles (501 solo), with 29 interceptions, seven forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and three sacks.
Notably, Haden was on the Reserve/COVID-19 list for Pittsburgh’s season-finale last year; he also missed the postseason loss to the Browns as a result of that “COVID-19 situation.”
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