ShareThis Page
Breakfast with Benz

Tim Benz: Healthy Joe Haden might be boost Steelers defense needs

| Tuesday, July 10, 2018, 6:27 a.m.
Steelers cornerback Joe Haden breaks up a pass intended for the Browns' Seth DeValve during the second quarter Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers cornerback Joe Haden breaks up a pass intended for the Browns' Seth DeValve during the second quarter Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.

I have seven days to go before a pre-training camp vacation. So, today, we are going to start a little something here at Breakfast with Benz: "Stairway to Seven."

Seven players, in seven days, who could be difference-makers for the Steelers as they start their quest for a seventh Super Bowl title.

No. Not the obvious ones. We all know about the Killer B's. If Ben, Bell and Brown are hurt or substandard, the Steelers don't have a chance. Cam Heyward is a standout Pro Bowl player. Open and shut. You know what you are getting there.

The offensive line is above average. If they get banged up or regress, forget about it.

So we are looking at various players, not the ones in front of our faces, over the next week who have to be stellar — and healthy — for the Steelers to reach their ninth Super Bowl.

We start in the secondary with Joe Haden.


Watch: Joe Haden's only interception of 2017


Haden was a good get by the Steelers once he was released by Cleveland. Really steady. Haden proved there was still gas left in the tank once he got into Black and Gold.

Unfortunately, that clip above was his only interception of the season. Maybe that's because he was good enough in coverage that the opposition just decided to throw at Artie Burns and the other defensive backs.

But at minicamp in June, Haden made reference to needing to get his hands on more passes and get the ball back for the Steelers more often in 2018.

The other area where Haden can improve? Be on the field more. Hey, the guy broke his leg. That's not his fault. And he came back after just five games. Hence, no one is questioning his dedication or desire. But injuries have been a problem for Haden. Haden has missed 19 games over the last three seasons.

When Haden was absent last year, it was noticeable. So much of the demise of the Steelers defense was pinned on Ryan Shazier's injury. We forget that coincided with Haden getting hurt.

The Steelers looked good in Game 1 without Haden as they battered Marcus Mariota and the Titans.

Then Brett Hundley, Tom Brady, Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton combined for eight touchdowns and two interceptions with Haden sidelined. They averaged a quarterback rating of 100, and opponents teams averaged 28 points against the Steelers.

If Haden can stay healthy and up his level of play a bit more, the Steelers secondary takes on a much more stable look. He may not be a "take away one side of the field" guy anymore. He doesn't have to be. He just needs to be slightly better than last year, so maybe that reputation starts to creep back, and then Keith Butler can slide help to Artie Burns or Cam Sutton more often.

Furthermore, if the Steelers play man-to-man more often, Haden is often going to have be good on his own, regardless of help from the scheme maybe matching the other team's play call.

None of this is to say Haden wasn't good enough last year. He was. But if the question is "how can the Steelers get better?" Well, he's one of the ways — if he suits up for all 16 games and rewinds the clock to 2013 or so.

That'd be a wild card for the Steelers on the "Stairway to Seven."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me