For seven seasons, Joe Haden lined up against the Steelers’ top wideouts in a futile effort to lead the Browns’ defense back to glory. Now he’s on the other side of one of the league’s most one-sided rivalries.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Haden signed a three-year, $27 million contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers Wednesday, flipping his allegiance from the AFC North’s worst team to one of its best. He’ll slip into a secondary in need of veteran leadership alongside second-year starters Artie Burns and Sean Davis.
How can Haden help the Steelers?: Pittsburgh has one of the league’s most explosive offenses, but the team’s front office has invested hard in returning the defense to its Steel Curtain roots. Haden is the latest first-round pick to join the roster, joining Cameron Heyward, Bud Dupree, Ryan Shazier, Burns, and T.J. Watt. His last two healthy seasons, in 2013 and 2014, resulted in Pro Bowl berths. At 28 years old, he’s still young enough to make an extended impact in his new home.
The Pittsburgh pass defense was middling last fall. Steeler defensive backs held opposing passers to an 89.5 rating — a mark that ranked 18th in the league despite facing the Browns’ shameful cavalcade of quarterbacks twice.
Why did Cleveland release one of its longest-tenured players?: Pittsburgh isn’t getting a can’t-miss player here. Haden has struggled with injury recently, playing in just 18 games over the last two seasons. With more than $14 million in salary commitments on the books, he was an expensive risk for a rebuilding team. The Browns tried to trade him before letting him hit the free-agent market, but ultimately failed to recoup any assets for their two-time Pro Bowler.
Instead, they’ll turn to Jason McCourty, Briean Boddy-Calhoun, and Jamar Taylor in what promises to be an underwhelming coverage unit in 2017.
The fan perspective: Opinions coming out of Cleveland may not matter much to those in Pittsburgh, but Browns supporters overwhelmingly wanted to hold on to their long-tenured defensive back. A poll at Dawgs By Nature shows how badly fans wanted the team to keep Haden.
Haden’s former teammate, Joe Thomas, wished him the best.
You will truly be missed my man! You were always the consummate; teammate, professional, and friend. I wish you much success in the future!! https://t.co/PYZQHNhggA— Joe Thomas (@joethomas73) August 30, 2017
And his new teammates were quick to welcome Haden to the Steelers.
It won’t be long before Haden will get to see his former teammates. The Browns face off against the Steelers in Week 1.