The Pittsburgh Steelers pounced quickly on Wednesday to sign free agent cornerback Joe Haden, and he has quickly joined the team in Charlotte for their preseason finale. Haden took time to chat with the Steelers team website about his decision, and he offered some interesting information about his process.
Haden said he wanted to be a Steeler, but he acknowledged receiving a few offers. He said the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, and Miami Dolphins were among the teams that approached him. He did not say for certain they were the only teams, but it does not sound like the San Francisco 49ers made a push for him, or at least not a significant one. And based on his comments, I don’t think it would have made much difference.
Earlier on Wednesday, when the Browns cut Haden, 49ers general manager John Lynch was asked about him. Lynch said the team had been “watching [him] for a while” and would always try and improve their team when an opportunity arose. He also said he was heading in to speak with Kyle Shanahan about Haden at that point.
The 49ers cornerback depth chart is a question mark, with Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson expected to start when Week 1 arrives. There is talent there, and they both have the kind of length and size to thrive in a press system. However, neither has had sustained long-term success, with Robinson entering his second season, and Johnson seeing his playing time decrease each of his first three seasons.
Adding Haden likely would have offered a short term shot in the arm for the cornerbacks. However, given where the defense is in this rebuilding process, it makes sense for the 49ers to take what they currently have and see what it can do. Johnson is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and the team could see some potential for an extension. It makes sense in a rebuilding year to throw him out there and really see what they’ve got.