Haden’s a Steeler savior
“Haden!!!” exclaimed the Cleveland Browns front office personnel sitting in the Heinz Field pressbox Sunday. Joe Haden’s last-minute interception had just sealed the Pittsburgh Steelers 20-13 win over the Browns.
Yes, this was the very same Haden that Cleveland’s player personnel department decided was too old and wasn’t worth the money when they released him in 2017.
Karma is the word that comes to mind.
Haden’s eyes were ablaze with excitement as he answered a question whether there could be a better script than to intercept a pass against his former team to end the game.
“No, I honestly couldn’t. I am very excited about it,” said the Steelers cornerback, who spent seven seasons with Cleveland. “Last week I dropped two of them to close the game. I worked on the JUGS (machine) last week. I was making sure that if the ball came to me, I was going to be able to catch it. It feels good.”
Haden detailed the last-minute interception saying, “We were in a cover three. Jarvis Landry was running a seam route and Baker (Mayfield) kind of threw it high and behind him. I just went down and tried to get it before it touched the ground.”
In talking about defending Odell Beckham, Jr. and Landry, Haden said, “They were doing a lot of things. Sometimes they weren’t really targeting them as much. With [Nick] Chubb, they were doing a good job of running the ball, staying ahead of the sticks so they didn’t really have to throw it as much. But, we always made sure we understood exactly where Odell and Jarvis were. Those dudes are going to get theirs. You just have to make sure you keep them in front of you, nothing over the top. That is what we made sure we did. But those dudes, they are going to get theirs, regardless.”
Right outside linebacker Bud Dupree was outstanding once again. Dupree was credited with six tackles, two quarterback hits, one pass defended and one forced fumble. He was also flagged for a roughing the passer penalty call on the play before Haden’s pick.
Dupree explained how that play unfolded.
“I was max pro (maximum protection) on my side, so I had a tight end, a running back and a tackle. I just got wide and tried to run by the tight end because I knew he was going to chip if I was in tight. I came free once I got outside and I saw that Baker Mayfield still had the ball, so I sped up and hit him. I thought it was a clean hit. I don’t know why they called it. I put my head to the side initially on contact.”
When asked if he was concerned that his penalty could have changed the outcome, Dupree said, “No, I wasn’t worried because I was going to try to do the same thing on the next play.”
Despite being down 10-0 early, Dupree said he knew his teammates weren’t going to panic.
“We knew that we just had to hang in there. We didn’t blink. We just kept going. Coach (Mike) Tomlin always tells us not to blink. We knew what we were messing up on. It would have been different if we just couldn’t stop them at all, but we knew what we were messing up on. We were out of place in the gaps and letting people run free.”
Cleveland guard Joel Bitonio agreed with the Dupree assessment of the Browns’ 10-0 lead, saying, “We know they are never going to give up. It was a good start. The first drive was like 14 plays (actually 13) and we had another good drive. We went up 10-0 and then we really didn’t put much together after that. Credit to them, they did enough to stop us and we didn’t do enough to take advantage of our opportunities.”
The Steelers defense has forced 30 turnovers through 12 games. That ties the mark set in 1997 when they had 30 through 12 games. Their 43 sacks in 12 games are the highest since the 1994 unit had 45 through 12 games. The defense has had four or more sacks in five of the last six games, the first Cleveland game being the exception.
Their 15 forced fumbles are tied for second in the league, while their 14 fumble recoveries tops all teams.
T.J. Watt’s 27 quarterback hits put him in a first-place tie in for league leadership, as do his five forced fumbles. He is tied for second in sacks with 12.5.