Haden shining after performance
CLEVELAND – If Browns cornerback Joe Haden was trying to send a message, he picked the right forum at the right time.
Try a two-interception performance last Sunday in a 41-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Better yet, Haden held talented Bengals receiver A.J. Green with just two receptions.
It was the type of performance that probably will earn Haden a bunch of votes from fans, players and coaches who participate in voting for the Pro Bowl that’s held in Hawaii in January. It certainly caught the attention of Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, who is preparing the Steelers for a game Sunday against the Browns in Cleveland.
“I don’t think that any corner is playing better that we have faced,” Tomlin said. “He’s good on the line. He’s good off the ball. He has great peripheral vision. He’s just a very talented player whose experience is catching up with his talent and the end result is the end result. He’s one of the best at what he does.”
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger couldn’t agree more with Tomlin’s comments.
“He’s playing great,” Roethlisberger said. “I’ve always had a lot of respect for him. He’s a guy right now playing at a really high level. He may be playing the best of any cornerback we’ve seen all year.”
Haden returned one of the interceptions 29 yards for a touchdown to give the Browns a short-lived 13-0 lead. The interceptions give him three for the season.
Even more impressive was the near shutout he pitched against Green, who’s among the best receivers in the NFL. Haden, who has a copy of a map of Hawaii taped to the inside wall of his locker to remind him of the Pro Bowl, undoubtedly earned Green’s Pro Bowl vote, along with the votes of countless others that saw or heard of his performance.
“I try not to think (about it) after the first Pro Bowl vote,” Haden said. “If it happens, it happens. Right now I’m trying to beat the Steelers. I want everybody on our team to go. I want us to keep winning games.”
Haden, a first-round draft choice in 2010, has played well from the start of the season. He’s probably playing better than he did in his rookie season, when he intercepted six passes.
“I haven’t had a chance to watch too many other players,” Haden said. “I feel like I’m playing at a high level.”
Those that vote for the Pro Bowl often place an inordinate emphasis on statistics. For defensive backs that means interceptions, which have been hard to come by for Haden since the 2010 season. He failed to intercept a pass in 2011 and had three last season.
Haden figures he’s dropped four possible interceptions this season. Now that he’s had a multi-interception game, he thinks more could be on the way.
“As a corner, once you start getting comfortable and you get the first one, then that’s when they all start coming,” Haden said.
Haden took extra satisfaction in his performance last Sunday because it was against Green. The two have one of the better personal rivalries going. Green had the better of the matchup in previous seasons, but not this season. He had seven receptions in the first game between the teams, but for just 51 yards.
Green was complimentary of Haden.
“During the game he said, ‘Hey, man, good work out there,’ ” Haden said.
While Tomlin talked about experience catching up to Haden’s talent, Haden talked about maturity. He said he grew up a lot after his four-game suspension last season for a violation of the NFL’s drug policy.
“That really slowed me down; made me settle down and become a better professional,” he said.