The Pittsburgh Steelers need to lock up Joe Haden

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Joe Haden are talking about a contract extension. Locking up Haden would be a big win for the Steelers.

The Steelers and Joe Haden appear to be very close to a two-year contract extension, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.

The cornerback position had been one of the weakest areas of the Steelers until Joe Haden fell in their lap. The Cleveland Browns released Haden on August 30th, 2017 and Pittsburgh immediately scooped him up the following day with a three-year, $27 million contract.

The Browns released Haden after poor performance and injury issues after he signed a five-year contract in 2014. Haden was one of the worst-graded cornerbacks in 2016 according to Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) grading system (115th out of 132).

The Browns were looking to free up cap space and get younger at cornerback, and after making their intentions of getting past Haden known, they failed to trade him. Ultimately, the Browns released him, giving the Steelers the opportunity to sign him.

Haden’s performance improved in Pittsburgh, getting a 69.3 grade from PFF in 2017 and a 70.9 in 2018, the latter being ranked 37th among all cornerbacks. And while these number aren’t classified as ‘elite,’ what they’ve given Pittsburgh is stability at a position they’ve desperately lacked in previous seasons prior to Haden’s arrival.

While Haden isn’t quite the ‘shutdown corner’ he was earlier on in his career, Haden also seldom gives up large chunk plays, which is something the Steelers often struggle with. Perhaps with the addition of Steven Nelson (ranked 21st on PFF in 2018), the Steelers will be even better at cornerback in 2019.

Haden also brings intangibles to the team, like great leadership and being an all-around great teammate and voice in the locker room. The Steelers need guys like Haden, especially now as they try to change the culture in Pittsburgh after a circus 2018 season.

If Pittsburgh is able to lock up Haden to this two-year extension, the Steelers will have him for the next three seasons. Haden is entering his age 30 season, which means he’d be 32 at the end of this extension. While the Steelers certainly wouldn’t expect Haden to be who he used to be, he would definitely keep stability at the position.

Who knows how things work out with Steven Nelson and 2019 third round draft pick Justin Layne. If the Steelers swing and miss on both, they would still have a smart veteran at a position that would be an albatross if Haden wasn’t there. And if the Steelers get a home run with one or both Nelson and Layne, then it’s the best problem to have in sports: having too many good players at one position.

If there’s any concern for the amount of money it might require to extend Haden, he’ll more than likely be making around his 2019 figure, which is $11.9 million. That may seem a bit high, but consider that after 2019, the Steelers will be rid of $26.4 million in dead cap space, including Antonio Brown’s $21.12 million. That is more than enough money to have stowed away for a couple younger guys seeking contract extensions.

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Joe Haden is exactly what Pittsburgh need right now at cornerback and remains exactly that until someone else can step up and become the best cornerback on the team. Haden loves it in Pittsburgh and the city and fans love him back. Thank you very much, Cleveland.

 

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