The Steelers just signed a very nice man to a contract extension.
That’s right, it was announced over the weekend that cornerback Joe Haden, who was in the final year of a three-year deal he signed back in 2017, had agreed to a two-year, $22 million extension that will keep him in Pittsburgh through the 2021 campaign.
As ugly as the money talk has been around here the past few seasons, how fitting was it that perhaps the nicest Pittsburgh Steeler to come along in ages got a satisfactory new deal?
Yes, yes, Haden is a nice man, but was it a sound deal, you may be asking.
At this point, it’s hard to say it’s not. I realize there are concerns about Haden’s age and history with injuries. He’s 30 years old and missed the entire preseason with what has been described as a minor ankle injury.
Was it a minor injury? I’m confident in saying it likely was. After all, head coach Mike Tomlin already knew what he had in Haden, based on his last two seasons in Pittsburgh, as well as his first seven with the Browns in Cleveland, where he made the Pro Bowl twice.
As for some of those other cornerbacks on Tomlin’s roster—Artie Burns, Cam Sutton, Justin Layne, etc.—he needed a much longer look at them this summer just to be sure what he had. And after four preseason games, what Tomlin knows is none of those players can compete on the same level as Joe Haden.
It is what it is, and, 30 or not, Haden is the best cornerback on the roster, a man who can make a difference for a secondary that has been lacking such a player since the glory days of Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark and even Deshea Townsend.
Maybe those other guys will eventually get it. But right now can’t mess around with “maybe,” and, right now, the Steelers want to win a Super Bowl. Their fans want them to win a Super Bowl. Not having long-term plans for a man who has arguably been the defensive MVP since the moment he set foot in Pittsburgh may make that task a bit more difficult.
While the Steelers and their fans have been talking about a small championship window for what seems like close to a decade, the fact of the matter is, that window really is starting to close this time.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is likely on his last contract—one that will run out the same time Haden’s does. After that, is it the Mason Rudolph Show? That remains to be seen. But Pittsburgh does know that the Big Ben Show is the best chance to win another title or two before it finally goes off the air.
When it comes to that, you can’t worry about a cornerback’s age. Might his play drop off next season or the season after that? Maybe. But nothing up to this point suggests Haden’s abilities will be severely lacking in 2019.
2019 is the only year the Steelers can concern themselves with. While they are an organization that’s almost uniquely adept at keeping a solid foot in the “now” while still building for the future, they still owe it to themselves to put as many chips into the championship pot as they can right now.
Haden, with his current status as one of the better cornerbacks in the entire NFL, gives them a much better hand to play.
When winning in 2019 is the goal, 2021 and 2022 can’t be major concerns. If you spend too much time worrying about what might happen in the future, the present might pass you by.
Right now, Joe Haden is a great cornerback. Right now, he gives the Pittsburgh Steelers a much better chance to do something very special.
Right now is all that matters.