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Joe Haden vs. James Harrison: Comparing cut veterans that joined rivals

BTSC looks at perceived similarities surrounding the releases and subsequent signings of Joe Haden and James Harrison.

NFL: New York Jets at New England Patriots Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Typically, no fan of the Steelers likes to hear comparisons between their team and the lowly Cleveland Browns. But it’s actually been suggested by some that there are similarities between the departures of celebrated defenders in both cities who happen to share the initials “JH.”

I tend to debunk that theory with the truest among the few similarities being that both players chose to join tormentors of their former team. It is worth delving into however—but first some background:

  • Haden arrived in Cleveland after being drafted seventh overall in the 2010 draft out of the high-profile Florida program. Meanwhile, Harrison was an undrafted free agent from Kent State in 2002 who was cut three times before he stuck as an NFL player.
  • James is a two-time Super Bowl champ, while Joe was a part of the NCAA 2008 national champion Gators.
  • Harrison will play in his 20th postseason game next week. Haden will make his playoff debut next week.
  • Haden picked off Ben Roethlisberger as a rookie. Harrison sacked the very same Miami of Ohio QB in college as a Flash.
  • Harrison was the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, while Haden was the Sporting News 2009 NCAA Defensive Player of the Year.
  • Haden is the 15th all-time interceptor in Cleveland history. Harrison is the king of sacks in Steelers’ lore.
  • Harrison has received five Pro Bowl selections and four All-Pro (two firsts and two seconds). Haden is a two-time Pro Bowler and was once a second-team All Pro.

Sure, each was cut from his respective team after a long and productive tenure, but the circumstances were far different. Harrison wasn’t going to be cut by the Steelers, but his expressions of anger behind the scenes and disappearing acts led to his dismissal, with some former teammates being happy for his exit.

Haden was beloved and a locker-room leader for Cleveland when he was let go in a cost-cutting move. His departure left a much bigger hole than that left by the loss of Harrison for Pittsburgh.

While each of them now plays for arch-rivals of their former teams, the situations surrounding their dismissals aren't remotely similar. But that doesn’t make it any easier from a fan’s perspective. Steelers fans were sick to their stomachs when James Harrison left for New England to chase another Super Bowl ring. Likewise, Browns fans can’t feel good about seeing the man they’ve cheered for ever since he was drafted now getting his first chance to taste the postseason with their perennial nemesis, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Two situations so very different, yet also so similar in certain ways.