With a handful of defensive players in the final year of their contracts, the Pittsburgh Steelers have decided to put their full efforts towards extending cornerback Joe Haden before the season begins. With the secondary already fairly thin, it’s no surprise that he’s the team’s primary focus this offseason.
Haden signed with the Steelers prior to the 2017 campaign after being cut by the Cleveland Browns. He spent the first seven seasons of his career with Pittsburgh’s AFC North rival, racking up 19 interceptions and 101 passes defended during his tenure.
In 15 games last season, the 30-year-old recorded 63 tackles and 12 defended passes, both the highest he’s produced since his 2014 Pro-Bowl season. Haden, the seventh-overall pick in 2010, is easily the team’s best defensive back and will be important in helping newcomer Steven Nelson get adjusted as the team’s new No. 2 corner.
The team’s other pending free agents — Javon Hargrave, Bud Dupree, Sean Davis, and Artie Burns — will likely be offered deals after the season ends, as the Steelers are notorious for halting contract talks during the season. Burns may not stick around as the former first-round pick has yet to live up to the hype. Hargrave and Dupree have been important pieces in the front-seven over the last few seasons, but Dupree will need to earn it his extension this year.
Signing most of these players is going to be difficult because of the new crop of pending free agents after next season. Young stars JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner will be looking for a nice payday while T.J. Watt has a club option for 2021 before also becoming a free agent.