Some Random Thoughts About New Steeler CB Joe Haden
WKCY.com, Ken Blaze photo—Haden’s job just got easier…
When I wrote the Vance McDonald story yesterday, I had no idea I would be called upon again quite so soon. And I’m not going to go into the sort of footbally details I did with McDonald, because he was from a land far away, in more ways than one, and a team the Steelers have only played once since he was drafted.
On the other hand, we’re quite familiar with Joe Haden on the field. In fact I almost titled the article “Some Random Thoughts About Ex-Brown Joe Haden.” That just didn’t seem right, though, because we’re all hoping he moves on from that sordid chapter in his life as quickly as possible.And yes, I’m kidding, although I would think it would be a dream come true from Haden’s perspective. Not only is he coming to a well-run, stable organization who is a contender more often than not, but one which plays his old team twice a year. What an opportunity to make a statement!
Of course, I thought the same about Justin Gilbert, and he turned out to be a disappointment, although I think the final straw was that he was suspended for a second violation of the substance abuse policy when he was already suspended for four months. When he came there was some feeling that he was a troubled young man, and apparently just being on the Steelers roster isn’t a miracle cure. (But I think we already knew that…)
When you look at the superficial facts there is a certain feeling of deja vu. Gilbert was drafted by the Browns at No. 8 overall. Haden was selected No. 7 overall. But fortunately the similarities end there. On the field, Gilbert never lived up to his first-round billing. On the field, Haden was a perennial Pro-Bowler and even a captain one year.
Off the field, Haden has been an upstanding citizen in his time in Cleveland. He has been very active in charity work, and was the first NFL player to serve as a Special Olympics Global Ambassador. This is a cause very dear to his heart, because he has a developmentally disabled younger brother, Jacob.
Back in May of 2012 I discovered that, if nothing else, Haden was kind. A girl he knew because she was a big fan of his and showed up to autograph sessions requested (through Twitter, naturally) that he replace her date for her high school prom, as he had backed out at the last moment. Haden did so, and it’s difficult to even imagine how much this meant to that young lady. Her father said at the time:
We met him last year. As a matter of fact, the kids went bowling with him downtown. You couldn’t find a nicer guy. I talked to him a little bit there. He’s not different than any of us; he’s just a quality guy.
There is no doubt that Haden has been injury prone. In his seven NFL seasons he has missed 22 games—only in his rookie season did he play all sixteen. [Half of those were missed in 2015, though, when he missed five games with a pair of concussions which eventually sent him to IR.] There is also no doubt his play has dropped off sharply in the past few years, although it’s hard to judge much from his five games in 2015.
He’s young enough, though, that there is a decent chance he can bounce back. He might not make another Pro Bowl, but I don’t think the Steelers need Pro Bowl type players at every position, just what Mike Tomlin might term NFL-capable varsity players. I certainly think it was a reasonable risk to take, and so did a whole lot of other NFL teams. According to various sources, about half the league made calls to his agent when the cut was announced, and Haden left money on the table to come to Pittsburgh.
Furthermore, he left Cleveland with class, putting this out on Instagram after the cut was announced:
As various people have commented, whatever else these two signings represent, it’s clear the Steelers are all in. A lot of things can derail a championship season, but if they do, it won’t be for a lack of trying.