The Pittsburgh Steelers could possibly bring back a three-time Pro Bowl veteran.
In a list compiled by Pro Football Focus’ Doug Kyed, the PFF analyst lists a player that each team should target prior to the start of training camp. According to Kyed, the Steelers should pursue their former three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden. Haden recently spent the past five seasons with the Steelers and remains a free agent heading into the month of July.
“Haden, 33, remains unsigned but still appeared to have more in the tank last season,” says Kyed. “He has offers currently on the table, per a source. Even with Minkah Fitzpatrick at safety, the Steelers ranked 28th in Mike Renner’s secondary unit rankings.”
Fowler: Haden’s Days With Steelers ‘Likely Over’
The Steelers have shown no indication that they plan on bringing back Haden despite their lack of a veteran presence in the defensive backfield. Pittsburgh signed former Buffalo Bills cornerback Levi Wallace in addition to re-signing Ahkello Weatherspoon. The two corners project to be the starters with 27-year-old Cameron Sutton — who started 16 games last season — as the next man up.
As Jeremy Fowler of ESPN noted back in March, the Steelers re-signing Haden is unlikely.
“With #Steelers signing two corners, Haden’s days with Pittsburgh are likely over,” says Fowler. “He had a great five-year run there with 10 interceptions, a Pro Bowl and 54 pass deflections.”
As Sam Robinson of PFF notes, Haden suffered through rough 2021 season — arguably the worst of his 12-season career.
“PFF viewed Haden’s 2021 season as his worst in Pittsburgh, ranking him outside the top 60 corners,” says Kyed. “Haden’s passer rating as the closest defender vaulted to 100.1; that figure stood at 75.9 in 2020. Haden made the Pro Bowl in 2019. The Steelers do not have a corner with Haden’s pedigree, but they did re-sign Ahkello Witherspoon and add Levi Wallace in free agency.”
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Haden Slowly Declined During Tenure With Steelers
According to Pro Football Focus, Haden posted a 63.4 defensive grade and a 65.0 grade in coverage last season. Those were the worst grades of Haden’s five-season stint with the Steelers. For perspective, Haden ranked 74th among all corners in defensive grade (with at least 100 snaps) and ranked 48th in coverage.
By comparison, Haden posted defensive grades of 70.9 in 2018, 70.3 in 2019 and 66.6 in 2020. In other words, Haden has been in a slow decline over the past four years.
His grades last season aren’t exactly terrible, but it’s obvious Haden is in a clear decline — especially as he enters his age-33 season. Robinson also mentions how Haden would be only the second cornerback in the NFL to play at 33 years of age or older entering the 2022 season.
“Haden signing somewhere would make him just the second corner to be on a team ahead of his age-33 season this year,” says Robinson. “Casey Hayward, who turns 33 in September, is the only such player exiting June.”
The Steelers certainly aren’t lacking in salary cap space — roughly $14 million in available space — so they could sign Haden to a bargain one-year deal if they chose to.
However, the Steelers aren’t exactly in a dire need to bring back Haden with three of their top corners possessing a decent amount of experience. If Pittsburgh’s corners struggle early on in the season, Haden becomes a viable option if he remains a free agent heading into September.