CLEVELAND -- Two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden reportedly had plenty of suitors when he entered the free-agent market after being waived by the Cleveland Browns prior to the team’s trip to Chicago for the preseason finale last Wednesday.
But instead of taking a tour around the league, the conversation started and stopped with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who reached a deal with the veteran defensive back a mere eight hours after his being let go of by the team who selected him with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft out of the University of Florida.
“For the Steelers to be one of the teams, it was the best team that wanted me,” Haden said in a conference call with the Cleveland media.
“I was just looking forward to trying to get to the playoffs, trying to spread my career to play where I haven’t played. With them, I knew the opportunity was going to be there. It had really nothing to do with playing against the Browns twice a year.”
In his seven seasons with the Browns, Haden registered 376 total tackles, including 311 solo stops, 65 assists, two sacks, 101 passes defended, four forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and 19 interceptions, which he has returned for 231 yards and one touchdown.
While Haden had plenty of individual successes with the Browns, he was never part of a winning team, and instead, was forced to deal with constant turnover (five head coaches, four general managers and two owners) in Cleveland, something that has been far from the case in Pittsburgh.
“It is a different feel over here,” Haden said. “It is a different vibe, but like you said, they have guys who have been doing it.
“On offense, you have Ben Roethlisberger, who has been in the league for such a long time with so many accolades and so many credentials, and Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, people who have been league leaders at their positions on offense. The flow goes a little bit different at practice. That is one thing that I could just see from the beginning.”
Willing to sign with a contending team right away after being waived by the Browns, Haden is ready to be a part of a successful organization with ambitions of a deep playoff run.
“Once I realized that Pittsburgh was a team that was in the hunt as far as money-wise goes and everything -- they were all in, they were very, very interested in me and they wanted me to come -- then, I just looked at it from my side as far as me and my family and what I have been going through,” Haden said.
“If I had a chance to play for a team like Pittsburgh, they are a really good team, a first-class organization. I knew a couple of players on the team and just seeing the direction they have been going and the consistency and how they play, I was like, ‘I could go be a part of that and try to have something special.’”
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