PITTSBURGH (AP) — Joe Haden will allow he is not as rapidly as he was a 10 years back.
Then once more, there were few players in the NFL who could dangle with the longtime cornerback during the early days of his profession.
Yet the now 32-calendar year-previous thinks he has not missing a step because he arrived in Pittsburgh on the eve of the 2017 time. It truly is a single of the good reasons he is gone general public about his hope that he sticks with the Steelers extensive just after his latest contract expires next spring.
“My tape speaks for alone,” Haden stated.
Pittsburgh saw ample in 2020 — when Haden picked off two passes and knocked down 14 other people for the NFL’s 3rd-ranked defense — to keep Haden somewhat than fellow cornerback Steven Nelson all through the offseason. The Steelers let Nelson go in a income cap go even nevertheless Haden carried a better cap amount of $15.75 million for 2021.
That’s just the mother nature of the small business, a thing Haden grew to become acquainted with when the rebuilding Browns let him go at the end of instruction camp four a long time ago. He sprinted to indicator with the Steelers, the place has flourished. He produced the Pro Bowl in 2019 and has missed just three video games in excess of the previous 3 seasons though remaining productive on the other facet of his 30th birthday.
Haden is nicely mindful 30 serves as an expiration date of sorts for players who make a dwelling chasing receivers who are normally even larger, more robust and in some instances, more quickly.
He began making ready a few decades in the past, choosing a total-time bodily therapist to support him choose treatment of his nonetheless wiry 5-foot-11, 195-pound frame. He is modified his offseason system to target far more on velocity than strength, figuring it does not make a difference how strong he is if he won’t be able to keep track of down the male he’s paid out to address.
Although he’s the 3rd-oldest player on the crew powering quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, there’s a vitality to Haden that performs in stark distinction to veteran defensive lineman Cam Heyward. Haden’s a handful of weeks more mature than Heyward, nevertheless it’d be challenging to explain to if you enjoy them for the duration of observe.
It’s Heyward, not Haden, who groans just about every time he stands up. It really is Heyward, not Haden, who walks close to with faux aged-guy bluster. Haden pointed out most of his teammates are astonished when they discover Haden is 1 of the team’s elder statesmen. Questioned why they’re amazed and he laughs.
“You see this toddler facial area?” he claimed.
There continues to be a spring in Haden’s phase. He ran action for step with 23-12 months-aged broad receiver Chase Claypool on a deep ball down the sideline on Monday, knocking the go away as they equally fell to the floor. Not each individual gamble, having said that, paid off. He produced a diving endeavor to intercept a move to James Washington only watch the ball just sail previous his fingertips and into Washington’s palms for what turned into a extensive attain. Haden scrambled to his feet and gave chase with a smile even as his teammates roared “oooooohhh” when he came up vacant.
Hey, it will come with the territory.
Even with the departure of Nelson and linebackers Bud Dupree and Vince Williams, Haden believes the 2021 version of the Pittsburgh defense will be as superior if not better than the 2020 edition that aided carry the Steelers to the AFC North title.
He’s impressed with defensive back Cam Sutton’s versatility as he bounces from exterior to within and again again. He likes what he’s observed from James St. Pierre, who figures to be offered just about every possibility to crack the top four defensive back rotation.
“I consider we have, if not the very same or (maybe) a little improved protection than we did previous yr,” Haden said. “Everybody’s received to enjoy a function. Got to enjoy their aspect and do what we did past 12 months, make plays and we should really be fine.”
What transpires following that will very likely continue being a thriller, at the very least for now. The Steelers have loads of cap house accessible in 2022 and past, even though how substantially they’d be prepared to commit on a cornerback in his mid-30s is unknown. Haden appears significantly less concerned about money than the chance to finish his job in a area he is grown to love.
“I clearly want to continue to be here,” he claimed. “Just the organization, the employees … I want to be below.”
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