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Steelers Film Room: Joe Haden might not be what he once was, but he is worth every penny

Joe Haden had some issues against the Ravens, but he was easily the savior of the secondary too.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Let me be brutally honest about Joe Haden. He’s an above-average cornerback, but he’s nowhere near elite and is much better off being a No. 2 cornerback on a team. Thus, I don’t find it particularly comforting he is, by far, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ best cornerback. He has his lapses, and they happened more often on Sunday night than they usually do versus the Ravens. But while not having a great game, Haden also showcased why he’s so valuable to the team. He has by far the best ball skills of all the cornerbacks, and he continues to show how you can justify paying him 27 million dollars. If you want to see why he deserves every penny he gets to play for Pittsburgh, look no further than this:

Haden is not as fast as he once was — injuries having no doubt taken their toll on him — but you just don’t see plays like this by an average corner. He lets Brown get the inside track and then tracks the ball so well. This is what we call a trail technique and it takes ball skills more than anything. Haden was playing this deep-route all game and didn’t only make one play like it. The dive here and then the hand usage to knock it out are textbook on trail technique. This is a great play no doubt, but he made an even better play on one earlier.

Mike Tomlin has repeatedly talked about not giving up inside or outside leverage in the secondary. Joe Haden gives him a prime example to show everyone in the film session. He is physical up front with his hands and bumps Brown before he goes inside and thus takes him off his route. He keeps his hips square and tracks Brown the whole way, even out of the break. The best part of this is how he tracks the ball and easily bats it down as it approaches. This speaks volumes about his ability to track the ball in general. He gets a bit grabby, but still a great play by Joe Haden.

Unfortunately, Haden then fell victim to the scheming of Keith Butler. Butler has some of the weirdest scheming assignments in the NFL.

Why Haden is playing so far off and playing the out route so hard is odd. It does allow him to run his trail technique on a post, but he still gives up any inside route. Jon Bostic deserves some blame here because he blatantly bites on the fake, but even then, the scheming of this play is giving up an easy slant every time. In makes no sense to make this play call. I have no idea what Vince Williams is doing, but it is possible he had a zone and this is why Brown gets so wide open, but no doubt about it, this is a schematic mess.

As for Haden himself, he did have a few rough plays. For one, he and Cameron Sutton had a terrible miscommunication you have to blame on Keith Butler.

This has been a rampant issue and all parties involved endure the blame for this folly. If the correct assignment is followed by either Sutton or Haden, then this likely does not become an easy touchdown. However, even if you are Joe Haden or Cam Sutton, you simply cannot watch the receiver run right by you. You can at least mirror him and follow. Regardless, though, that is a horrible miscommunication.

As for the one truly terrible play by Haden, here it is courtesy of Michael Crabtree.

Oh yeah, Haden fell straight for the stop n’ go route. He clearly thought it was going to be a hitch and just fell asleep. The double move by Crabtree was pretty swift, but Haden has to be more disciplined and read the play, because if Flacco hits the throw on the money Crabtree is going to walk into the endzone for a touchdown.

Haden is easily the best cornerback on the team right now, and maybe the best member of the secondary depending on how you view Sean Davis. As for what we get instead of him, we get this mess.

It might not be in coverage, but what an absolutely terrible tackling attempt by Cameron Sutton. I have no words for how bad that is. He just simply slides in with no regard for actually tackling Buck Allen. Before this, Bud Dupree simply whiffs and Vince Williams does as well. This team simply cannot tackle at all.

So, no matter how you view Haden, you better believe there is no cornerback even close to him right now on the roster. He has his lapses, but largely, he is worth every penny he is getting paid right now.