PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – It all happened in less than a 12-hour span on Wednesday. First, it was announced in the early morning hours that Joe Haden was being released by the Cleveland Browns and then shortly after he became officially available at 4 p.m., another announcement that the Steelers had signed him to a 3-year, $27-million deal.
NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport was one of those nationally that was on this story all day. He joined “The Fan Morning Show” on Thursday and said from the very beginning, the Steelers were the favorites to land Haden.
“To me, Pittsburgh was always kind of the number one,” said Rapoport. “I mean, there were other teams interested, you know teams like the Saints and the Chiefs on some level, I think the Colts had some interest, the Cowboys. But, really as soon as it became clear that the Browns were shopping him and wouldn’t be able to get a deal, which honestly had become obvious for the last year or so, then it was really about the Steelers.”
“They came real hard, they made it known the monetary commitment they would make. I don’t think it was the most money he would have made. In fact, I’m pretty sure it was not. But, it was the best combination of guaranteed money this year and opportunity to really win and then he becomes a better player by not having to face Antonio Brown twice a year, that’s another thing. Early in the morning through when he signed, it was really all about the Steelers and Joe Haden.”
There is one glaring drawback when looking at this addition for the Steelers and that is Haden’s health, having only played in 5 games in 2015 and 13 games in 2016.
“He did have groin surgery or ‘core muscle’ surgery in the off-season and he played hurt all of last year,” said Rapoport. “I know nobody really cares, if you’re on the field you’re basically ready to play, nobody really cares if you are injured or not. But the reality is, he was injured last year. So what you saw on the field wasn’t 100 percent what he was.”
Rapoport explained why the Browns released Haden and what kind of player the Steelers may be getting in this deal.
“One, he wouldn’t take a pay cut down to $7 million, which of course he ended up making $7 million in year one with the Steelers, so his decision not to take a pay cut seemed to be a wise one. And he wasn’t the player he’s been,” said Rapoport. “And for Pittsburgh, he may not be the player he’s been, he may not be the Pro Bowl player. But, for $7 million in a year he doesn’t need to be the standout, All-Pro that he was, he just needs to be a very good player to help Pittsburgh and I think that’s what he’s going to be.”
Rapoport also believes that Haden’s play will benefit from getting the heck out of Cleveland and onto a winning team in Pittsburgh.
“Having a good defensive front, and I do think the Steelers’ defense is going to be pretty good this year, really good maybe, that’s going to help, too,” said Rapoport. “You can judge Joe Haden all you want, you can look at him in coverage, you can look at the stats from Pro Football Focus or whatever those numbers are, but you’ve got to remember that everything he did the last two years was really without a lot of help from the front seven. It was basically him trying to cover for however long he needed to cover for. If he has to cover for a half a second or a second less than he used to, that makes him a better player.”
You can hear the entire interview with NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport on the Fan Morning Show above.