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Joe Haden Says Replacing Slot Corners Won’t Be Easy: ‘It’s a Different Ballgame on the Inside’

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PITTSBURGH — The Steelers cornerback room is going to look very different in the upcoming 2021 NFL season. Without Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton, the Steelers will be relying on new faces, such as James Pierre.

However, Joe Haden and Cameron Sutton return to the team as mainstays who know the system. Even still, the Steelers have question marks on just how their subpackage looks will spread out. More importantly, the question of who will play on the outside versus the slot in nickel and dime packages.

Though there isn’t a set starter at Nickel corner just yet, do not expect Haden to be the one that fills the void. On Wednesday, Haden acknowledged just how hard it is to play in the slot.

“It’s a different ball game on the inside,” Haden said. “There’s some little slot receivers and the route tree is totally different from what it is on the outside. Things like timing and all of that are different too.”

Haden himself did note that he played a little bit in the slot during his first few years in Cleveland, but as it stands now, he doesn’t envy those players that are asked to go inside.

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“Honestly, I don’t want no parts of the slot,” Haden said. “Cam is able to play both outside and inside at such a high level. He’s a Swiss Army knife. He can do a little bit of everything.”

Haden later delved deeper into what makes it such an impressive feat that Sutton can play at so many different spots. In the Steelers’ scheme specifically, Haden believes everything above the neck is much harder in the slot than it is on the outside.

“I could play in the slot, but there’s a lot more studying,” Haden said. “We have a lot of defenses, and outside cornerback, there is just a lot more in front of you. It’s different in how you determine when your motion is when you’re going over. There are so many different calls from blitzes, it’s just a lot.”

Haden clearly does not want to play in the slot, even though he said he could do it. More importantly, it seems that Haden and everyone around Sutton trusts him to take over and step into a bigger role. It will imperative that Sutton plays well in order for the Steelers secondary to be up to snuff after losing Hilton and Nelson.

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