The Steelers’ Joe Haden partnership has worked out remarkably well. The Pro Bowl cornerback has signed two contracts with the team and has played a key role in Pittsburgh’s defensive re-emergence over the past two seasons.
Haden is going into a contract year, however, with his two-year, $22MM agreement expiring after the 2021 season. The 12th-year veteran would prefer not to test free agency, instead seeking to sign a third Steelers pact and retire with the franchise.
“I would rather have a contract more than this year because I want to end my career here,” Haden said, via The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly (subscription required). “We will see what happens, but we want to get T.J. Watt signed first, obviously. He’s the main priority.”
Haden’s age (32) will complicate matters, and the Steelers do have Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick due for monster extensions. The latter is under contract through 2022, however, via the fifth-year option the Steelers exercised in May. The team, which parted ways with several veteran starters this offseason, is due to carry more than $70MM in cap space come 2022. And the perennial contenders are fond of moving money onto future caps to increase flexibility. If the Steelers want to keep Haden, they could.
This will be Haden’s fifth season with the Steelers, and the team will count on him after making big changes at corner. Pittsburgh moved on from its other two primary corners — Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson — in March and did not acquire notable replacements. The Steelers did re-sign Cameron Sutton, but they will count on at least one unproven player to log a major workload in a Haden-led position group this year.
The former Browns first-round pick signed a three-year, $27MM deal to join the Steelers in 2017, and he returned to the Pro Bowl in 2019 — months after signing his second contract with the team. After being largely an offense-oriented team during their “Killer B’s” run, the Steelers have ranked third and first in defensive DVOA over the past two seasons. The team now faces some decisions involving the key principals from this ascent.