Former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback, Joe Haden announced his retirement on Wednesday after a productive 12-year career. The Cleveland Browns selected him seventh overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. He was quite successful in Cleveland despite the team’s incompetency for a majority of his tenure. After seven seasons with the Browns in which he made two Pro Bowls, he became a cap casualty.
A team in dire need of a cornerback, the Steelers swooped in to sign him to a three-year, $27 million deal. Haden was no longer in his prime, but what a signing that was by former GM Kevin Colbert. Money well spent, as he was well worth that $9 million per year price tag. He was so good for those three seasons that Colbert re-signed him to two years, $22.4 million. Haden brought several things to the black and gold. For a few years, the Steelers defense had suddenly become one of the worst in football. The likes of Antwon “Valentino” Blake and Ross Cockrell racked up consistent starts at corner, but left a lot to be desired.
Haden was crucial to the defense overcoming those poor years, as he came in and provided some much-needed stability at the position. Additionally, he brought an energy to Pittsburgh from the moment he signed. As a result, the University of Florida product became an instant fan favorite. His leadership can’t go understated either, as the defense clearly needed that presence in the locker room.
In five years, he started 69 games, including two playoff contests. Haden racked up 10 interceptions, 55 pass deflections, 11 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles as a Steeler. So the question holds, where does he rank amongst all-time corners in team history? Well, the likes of Mel Blount, Jack Butler, and Rod Woodson obviously top that list. Those are elite names, and guys that produced several lockdown seasons.
Ike Taylor is up there as well, as he was the lone consistent name on the outside throughout the years of the dominant defenses of the 2000’s. Beyond that though, Haden has an argument. Dwayne Woodruff produced quite the career in the 1980’s. William Gay poses an interesting debate: would you rather have Gay or Haden? While Gay was known for making the big plays, Haden’s consistent presence on the outside is hard to argue with.
The black and gold have become more known for their linebackers and wide receivers rather than cornerbacks. There’s no question that Haden would be higher up on this list or have a better argument if he played longer than five seasons in Pittsburgh. If he was drafted to the Steelers, he would easily have been a top-five corner in team history. Regardless, it remains one of the better free agent moves made by Colbert in his 22-year tenure as general manager.
As far as memories, the interception of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the redzone at Heinz Field in 2018 has to instantly come to mind. The Steelers were finally able to beat the Patriots, and Haden’s interception played a large role in that happening. Just a week later, there was another notable memory from Haden’s tenure in the black and gold. This time, it wasn’t exactly a fond memory. There was a highly questionable pass interference call on him in a must-win Week 16 contest against the New Orleans Saints. While JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s fumble ended up being the ultimate deal-breaker, that call on Haden was memorable, to which was not his fault.
What are your favorite memories of Haden as a Steeler? Where does he rank on your list amongst cornerbacks in team history? Who would you rather have: Joe Haden or William Gay? Share your favorite Haden memories and any other relevant thoughts in the comment section below, yinz!
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