August 30, 2017, is when Pittsburgh Steelers fans rejoiced after Joe Haden was signed upon his release by the Cleveland Browns. The excitement roared up and down the BTSC boards. Fans were so excited to have a legit Pro Bowl cornerback come to town — a cornerback selected to the Pro Bowl in 2013 and 2014, while amassing seven interceptions and 40 pass deflections over the span. Unfortunately, Steelers fans glossed over 2015 and 2016 when Haden didn’t play well while missing 14 games.
His contract seemed reasonable at three years and $27 million. Haden’s 2017 low-ish salary of $3.2 million paid by the Steelers — with the Browns picking up the rest — pushed his total salary to $7 million due to the no-offset language in his contract. His annual contract makes him the nineteenth highest paid cornerback. The issue that a segment of Pittsburgh fans has with Haden is that he’s the eighth highest-paid cornerback this year following an injury-plagued and lackluster year.
This year appears to be the same dog-and-pony show as the past three years. Haden couldn’t finish the first game of the 2018 season against his old team — then missed Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Will the hamstring injury heal? Or will it cost Haden more games down the road like so many other soft-tissue injuries affecting aging cornerbacks?
The Baltimore Ravens game optimized where Haden is at in this stage of his career.
(I apologize but I didn’t put arrows designating Haden’s position in these videos. I had already uploaded the videos when I realized my blunder.)
The first play by Haden that’s bothersome is his clear lack of interest during the run game. Does Haden look like he has any interest in putting a hat on the running back?
Who takes the blame for the touchdown to John Brown? Fans can debate whether it is Cameron Sutton, Haden, Keith Butler or Mike Tomlin. Joe Haden is in his ninth year while Sutton is in his second. Haden has to take that leadership role by the horns and communicate who will cover who on the play.
For those who think Haden is a solid cornerback, this play epitomizes why Flacco didn’t fear him and threw his way all night. Haden bit on the pump-fake but an inept Flacco missed out on a sure six.
Haden is so worried about Brown’s deep speed he lets the speedy wideout get wide open on a crossing route. Brown had to slow down to make the reception, otherwise this would have been a long-gainer.
Flacco sails another pass to Brown where he gained separation on Haden.
Flacco throws deep down the seam to Brown — Haden makes a fine play but the only reason he’s even in the play is that Brown has to slow down.
Flacco playing easy pitch and catch with Michael Crabtree while Haden fails to wrap him up, giving Crabtree the first down.
The two cornerbacks at the top of the play are in man-coverage, and it can be assumed that Haden was in man as well. Yet again, a missed tackle. This was a crucial third-down conversion with the Steelers trailing by three late in the third quarter.
If Haden was the Steelers second cornerback making a $5-million salary, fans wouldn’t have an issue with his play. But that’s not the case — he’s the top cornerback, making $12 million this year. Joe Flacco is an average NFL quarterback who had no fear in attacking Haden for four quarters. So what happens when an elite quarterback, Matt Ryan, locks onto Julio Jones (Jones leads the NFL with 502 receiving yards) on Sunday? Being viewed as the best cornerback in a bad secondary doesn’t mean Haden is close to being a top NFL cornerback worthy of the top-10 pay he’s receiving.