Steelers:Joe Haden, The Straw That Stirs The Drink

Pittsburgh Pa:  Houston is on their 40th string quarterback so it is tough to get a read of just how good Haden played yesterday.  But when you look at the numbers, Haden is clearly the difference maker on this defense.  Not that players like Heyward, and Shazier before his injury weren’t important, but the fact is Haden makes this defense great. When he is not playing, the defense is average at best.

Coming into yesterday’s game, the Steelers were trying to shake off  a tough loss to the Patriots.  A game that included some fluke calls and a couple blown coverages that resulted in Gronk’s big second half.   A second half that in the end, was just enough to beat the Steelers.

The secondary has been an issue, every week that Haden has not been in the lineup.  When you look at the numbers, The Steelers defense had given  up about 70 yards of passing more each week that Haden didn’t play.

When Joe is in the game, the entire secondary is better.   Through nearly 3 quarters, the Texans had (if you include the sack yards) negative passing yards.  They would finish with 8 completions and a total of 93 yards passing which does not include the sack yardage.

As mentioned, that was against back up quarterbacks on Monday but the results remained the same. To expand on the numbers, Haden has played 9 full games and during those games the Steelers gave up an average of 189 passing yards per.  That includes only 1 game of over 300 yards, which was the Lions game where they gave up 423 yards passing to Stafford.

During the 5 games he did not play, the Steelers gave up 263 yards per game including a 300 yard game to Marcus Mariota and a 298 yard game to Brady.


There have been some really odd stats attached to the losses the Steelers sustained early in the season.  For example, The Steelers gave up less than 100 yards passing to both Chicago and Jacksonville and lost both games. How did the Steelers lose those games you ask?  In Both cases, Chicago and Jacksonville ran wild on the Steelers defensive line. Those were also games in which Ben Roethlisberger played some of his worst Football since coming to the NFL.

As you recall, he questioned his ability to play quarterback at this level after the 5 interception game to the Jags.   And during the Bears game, he struggled and was not able to make any plays on the road.

There has been one quarterback that has exposed the Steelers this season and that was Mathew Stafford, and the Lions still were not able to win the game.

The loss of Ryan Shazier is a big loss for the Steelers, but with Haden back in, consider what the Patriots game could have looked like.  I am not convinced Gronk goes off like that with Haden on him.  And make no mistakes, Haden would have been the guy covering him.

During the Christmas day game, Haden blanketed the Texan’s star wide receiver and held him to just 63 yards which included that sick catch to give Houston their only score.   The catch itself was at least a top 3 catch of the season as you can see below.

We have been watching the Steelers secondary get torched for years with Ryan Shazier and Heyward in the game.  Enter Joe Haden, the numbers go down.  That is not by accident.  He takes away the other team’s best receiver which allows the Steelers remaining secondary players to dominate.

Consider this:

If Antonio Brown would have finished the season strong without getting injured, he would have made a strong case to be the MVP in the league.  Which would have been a first time by a wide receiver.  But I am not convinced he is the MVP of his own team.  The numbers don’t lie.  Joe Haden is still that good and the Steelers stole him from the Browns.  The deal itself has has turned  into the second best free agent pickup in their history.

The best being James Farrior who did nothing but lead the defense from the time he joined the team in 2002 to the time he retired in 2013.   During that time period, the defense was one of the best in the NFL and because of that they were able to win 2 Superbowls.  Can’t do much better than that.



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