Head-to-head: Steelers WR Antonio Brown vs. Browns CB Joe Haden
November 23, 2013 8:50 PM
Browns cornerback Joe Haden is likely headed for the Pro Bowl this season.
By Gerry Dulac / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Despite having nine top-seven picks in the NFL draft since 1999, including two No. 1 overall selections, the Cleveland Browns have a dubious history of busts, bad decisions and flameouts.
Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, Gerard Warren, Kellen Winslow II and Braylon Edwards were all top-six draft choices. Trent Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick in 2012, has already been traded. And that doesn't include such other distinguishable No. 1 picks as William Green, Jeff Faine, Kamerion Wimbley and Brady Quinn.
Only one No. 1 pick from before 2009 remains with the team, and that's left tackle Joe Thomas, the third overall pick in 2007 who has been to six Pro Bowls and never missed an offensive snap.
But the Browns have another No. 1 pick who appears destined for the Pro Bowl -- cornerback Joe Haden, the seventh overall selection in the 2010 draft. All he has done this season is shut down many of the top receivers in the league, including Detroit's Calvin Johnson and Cincinnati's A.J. Green.
He gets another chance today when he lines up against Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, who leads the NFL with 74 catches and is coming off back-to-back 100-yard receiving games. He also had two touchdown receptions of 34 and 47 yards in last Sunday's victory against the Detroit Lions.
"He is different than other receivers I've gone up against, because he is a lot smaller and a lot quicker," Haden said.
Haden also is on a roll. He held Green, who leads the AFC in receiving yards (1,020), to just two catches for 7 yards in last Sunday's loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. He also intercepted two passes, including one for a 29-yard touchdown -- the first of his career, dating to college. That gave him three interceptions in the past two games, which is two more than all the Steelers cornerbacks combined (Cortez Allen has one).
But he has been doing that all season.
In 10 games, Haden has lined against a Pro Bowl receiver six times and limited them to a combined 17 catches, 147 yards and no touchdowns. Johnson, who had six catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns last week against Ike Taylor, had just three catches for 25 yards against Haden.
According to Pro Football Focus, receivers covered by Haden have been targeted 63 times and caught 33 passes. That 52.4 percent rate ranks Haden seventh among starting cornerbacks.
"He's a guy playing at a really high level ... maybe playing the best of any cornerback that we've seen all year," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said.
Haden is only 24 and did not start playing cornerback until his freshman season at Florida. That means he has been playing the position for only seven seasons.
"I don't think any corner is playing better, at least, any corner that we've faced," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "He's just a very talented player whose experience is catching up with the talent."
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