Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Desperate Steelers Try to Correct a Major Fail

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Desperate Steelers Try to Correct a Major Fail

Article excerpt

This isn't about whether Joe Haden can recapture his elite form. It's about whether he's an upgrade on Ross Cockrell and Coty Sensabaugh, and unless he shows up in a body cast, I have to believe he is.

Give the Steelers credit. Just not too much.

They were desperate, because even after getting shredded by Tom Brady (again) in the AFC title game, they returned for 2017 with the cornerback spot opposite Artie Burns very much up for grabs among several questionable candidates, none of whom seized the job.

Shaky incumbent Ross Cockrell struggled. Journeyman Coty Sensabaugh looked just OK. Rookie third-round pick Cam Sutton got injured. The slot position, meanwhile, remains a tug-of-war between William Gay and Mike Hilton.

In other words, the Steelers didn't exactly make cornerback a top priority in the offseason. When I asked defensive coordinator Keith Butler early in camp why anyone should believe things will be different, given the lack of dramatic change, he basically said, well, the pass rush should be better so that'll make it easier to cover people.

So yes, the Steelers were desperate. But give them credit for jumping all over Haden the instant the Cleveland Browns cut him.

The Steelers saw free agent linebacker Dont'a Hightower leave their offices without a deal in the offseason. They weren't going to let Haden do the same. He reportedly could have made more money elsewhere. The Steelers obviously sold him on staying. And in signing him to a three-year, $27 million deal ($7 million guaranteed in year one, though as of this writing we do not know the guarantees after that), they basically admitted that they have failed in every conceivable way, over several years, to adequately fortify the cornerback position in a pass-happy league.

They have failed via trade (hello, Brandon Boykin and Justin Gilbert), via the draft (paging Curtis Brown & Co.) and via the scrap heap. At times, they strangely ignored the position in the draft. …

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