Steelers’ Joe Haden makes picture-perfect pick vs. Patriots
Joe Haden saw the ball floating toward the sideline and leaped high above Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski to intercept Tom Brady’s pass at the 4-yard line midway through the fourth quarter.
It was such a picture-perfect pick that teammates told the Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback he should have it made into a poster.
“I don’t doubt it,” Haden said. “My wife might have it framed as we speak.”
Haden’s interception served as the turning point for the Steelers, not only in their 17-10 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday at Heinz Field but also their struggles to force turnovers this season. It was their first interception since their Week 10 win over Carolina.
“We were just trying to figure out a way to get turnovers,” Haden said. “We’ve been letting the team down a little bit in the fourth quarter. Having leads and things like that. So we’ve been talking about turnovers. I feel like being able to get that one was big for us.”
Haden was convinced the Steelers were so close to picking off a pass, and he every reason to believe that. He almost intercepted a Philip Rivers pass in the end zone before safety Sean Davis blasted into Haden and the ball bounced into the hands of Keenan Allen for a touchdown in the Steelers’ 33-30 loss to the Chargers.
But the pick wasn’t Haden’s only highlight against the Patriots. He also had a game-high 12 tackles (eight solo) and two passes defended before coming up with the clutch play. It marked his third career regular-season game with at least 10 tackles.
No wonder the Steelers have a special nickname for Haden.
“We call him ‘Joe Money’ because he always makes it happen,” Steelers rookie safety Terrell Edmunds said. “Joe’s a playmaker. You can always depend on Joe out there.”
It was Haden’s second interception of the season and 22nd of his career. This one was special, not just because of the circumstances — a second-and-goal throw from the 16 while clinging to a 14-10 fourth-quarter lead — but because of who made the throw.
“He got a Brady ball,” Edmunds said. “Not too many people can say they’ve got a Brady ball.”
Not too many people play with the pedigree of Haden, who spent his first seven NFL seasons with the Cleveland Browns before being released and signing with the Steelers last year. Haden was a top-10 pick and two-time Pro Bowl selection who is endorsed by the Jordan Brand, so he’s seen as a superstar by the Steelers.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has leaned on Haden to be a leader of the secondary, calling him “a special guy” with “special talents” but appreciating his approach to playing the game.
“He’s a compass, a steady influence for a young secondary, particularly a young cornerback position with those around him,” Tomlin said. “We ask him to do a lot of things beyond A, B and C. He does it all with a smile. We’re happy he’s a Pittsburgh Steeler.”
Haden might want to have that framed, too.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin at [email protected] or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.