It’s been almost five years since Joe Haden was released by the Browns. That means it has been almost five years and one day since the Steelers swooped in and made arguably their most significant signing in the organization’s history.
Haden has been the Steelers’ shutdown corner since the first day he stepped onto the field for them in 2017 and is still going strong at 32. Now, he’s anywhere between four and eight years older than any other defensive back on the team.
The Athletic was able to catch up with Haden for a lengthy interview. It was the first time a local reporter has talked one-on-one with a Steelers player in person since January 2020 at the Pro Bowl in Orlando, Fla. Incidentally, the last face-to-face interview I did was with Haden at the Pro Bowl.
Sitting down with Haden at the 50-yard line at the end of a recent practice, he dove into several topics, including his “kangaroo court” system of holding defensive backs accountable, the play of Cam Sutton and James Pierre, how long he wants to play and how he’s not too thrilled about playing this season on an expiring contract.
You are in training camp No. 12. Does it feel like it has been that long?
Nah, I feel good. I would probably say around eight. I feel like a vet, that’s for sure, but I don’t feel old.
Um … we have a lot of young dudes in the room. The coaching staff treats me like a vet, but it is just the love of football. We have a great young defense and I still feel like I am playing at a very high level. Until my body starts breaking down and when I can’t run and I can’t keep up with guys, that’s the biggest thing. The speed kind of shuts down, but I feel the same as I probably do last year.
Now, there is a difference between how long you want to play and how long you can play? You said if you break down you will know, but how long do you want to play? Is there a number you want to play?
I want to play until I can’t play. I want to continue to be a No. 1 corner. Once I feel like I can look at myself on tape and the coach says he doesn’t know if I can start in the NFL anymore on the outside, I am not really a change-position-to-safety kind of guy or going into the nickel. Once I am done as a CB1, at worst a CB2 if there is another good starter like me and Cam right now — once I can’t become an outside starting guy is when it is my time.