When the Cleveland Browns decided to release veteran cornerback and fan favorite Joe Haden, many members of the Dawg Pound expressed their gratitude for what Haden brought to the city of Cleveland, both on and off the field, and the way he loved Cleveland and their sports teams. Just hours later, it was announced that the cornerback was going to sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Browns’ biggest rival.
While the 28-year-old could be ring chasing given that the Steelers are one of the top teams in the NFL, it’s hard for Cleveland fans to see the fan favorite dart for that team. Why did he decide to sign with Pittsburgh so quickly? One of the main reasons was Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who lobbied for his team to sign the cornerback. During a weekly interview on 93.7 The Fan, the quarterback opened up about the process that took place in bringing Haden in.
Here’s what he had to say, per steelersdepot.com’s Dave Bryan:
“Lot of respect for him,” Roethlisberger said of Haden. “I was excited about that pickup. I know that when he got released I was talking to Coach [Tomlin]. I was saying, ‘hey, listen, can we get this guy?’ Let’s find a way because he, for a long time, was a guy that we looked at as at worst-case, five, maybe a top-three cornerback in the league. A guy that we respect a lot to make a lot of plays. Was smart, just a really good football player. I know he was dinged-up the last couple of years, but even dinged-up, he’s traveled with A.B. [Antonio Brown] and we always knew where he was.”
Haden has struggled mightily over the last two seasons, but it could be blamed on the number of injuries that he has tried to fight through. Having played in just 18 games since the start of the 2015 season, the cornerback has a chance to prove that he can still be the player he once was, one that was considered one of the top cornerbacks in the league. Roethlisberger seems to think that a change in scenery may rejuvenate Haden.
“I think and hope that when he comes here and he takes the orange off and puts the black and gold on, I think that’s going to rejuvenate him and get him ready to go,” he said. “I know he’s excited and I’m excited to have him on our side because I think that he’ll bring a big-play guy. And I hope that, and I know it’s a little later in his career than when James Farrior got here, but I’m hoping that he kind of brings a James Farrior-rejuvenation and has a career like James did when he was here.”
Obviously, considering the cornerback was with the Browns so long and practiced all training camp with Cleveland’s new defensive staff, there are things that Haden knows about the Browns defense that no one else does. Roethlisberger admitted that he will use that to his advantage as much as he can.
“Yeah, we’ve talked to him,” Roethlisberger said. “We anticipate them doing that with Sammie Coates. I’ve talked to Joe a little bit. It’s not like I’m going to be able to sit there and look at the sideline and look at their hand signals. You can’t do that. I’ve got to focus on what they line up and how they do things. But for me talking to Joe, it’s more about personality-guys. What kind of player is this guy? Is this guy very aware? Does he get moved with a pump fake? Does this guy like to jump routes? It’s just more personnel things and personalities more than anything.”
Along with Roethlisberger, star wide receiver Antonio Brown also lobbied for the Steelers to sign Haden. The two not only share the same agent in Drew Rosenhaus, but Haden has also been known to be one of the handful of cornerbacks who could somewhat slow down Brown.1
Haden may never be the cornerback he once was, but the Steelers were in dire need of another starting defensive back and they decided to take a chance on Haden. If the cornerback becomes anything that he once was, it was quite a pickup for Pittsburgh and one that could haunt the Browns for the foreseeable future.
The Steelers will travel to Cleveland to take on the Browns in the season opener on Sunday, with kickoff set for 1 p.m. ET.
- Eight receptions for 76 yards and zero touchdowns in the 2016 game is considered slowing Brown down relative to his other games. Haden did not play in either game against the Steelers in 2015 when Brown had 23 receptions for 326 yards and three touchdowns. [↩]