The Steelers cornerback situation is one of their biggest question marks as they head into training camp in the coming weeks.
However, while upstarts such as James Pierre are being relied upon with Cameron Sutton stepping up as well, the one constant in the room remains the consistent Joe Haden.
The grizzled veteran will be relied upon to bring leadership and quality play in his age 32 season this fall. If 2020 is any indicator, Haden is an indispensable and massively valuable piece to the Steelers’ hopes of having yet another strong secondary in 2021. Haden’s 2020 was a true outlier for his age. Having played on only the left side of the defense, Haden’s stats on that side are some of the best in the NFL.
Just starting on surface stats, Haden was among the top of NFL cornerbacks who lined up on the left side of the defense. His excellent 39.3% completion percentage allowed is tied first among that group with New York Giants star James Bradberry. Meanwhile, his 57.6 quarterback rating when targeted was second in the NFL among that group only behind the Packers’ Jaire Alexander. His 0.8 yards per coverage snap allowed was ranked fourth in the NFL among that group.
Just a surface level, this was a really spectacular season for the Haden, and he did at age 31. However, on an even deeper look, Haden proved to also be one of the most valuable cornerbacks at the left cornerback spot and the most valuable cornerback on the Steelers.
Over the course of the season, Haden allowed a total of a -15.44 EPA when targeted, the most in the NFL from the alignment. In addition, Haden’s -0.28 EPA per target was third from the left cornerback alignment
The more extraordinary thing is just how much man coverage the Steelers ran last year. Haden had 190 coverage snaps from the alignment in man coverage. Haden’s -0.66 EPA allowed per target in man coverage ranked second from the left cornerback alignment, and his -21.77 EPA racked over the season in man coverage is the best in the NFL.
It appears that Haden has shown very little signs of slowing down. While his age is worrisome as he enters the final season of a contract year, the Steelers will be relying upon Haden to continue his high level of excellence both on and off the football field in 2021.