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Joe Haden’s route to the first opening-week win of his career was a strange one. It involved getting cut, signing with his former team’s rival and hanging on against a young, improved team.
“Got the game ball, man,” Haden said following the Steelers’ 21-18 win at FirstEnergy Stadium “They heard this was my first season-opener win since I’ve been in the league, so they gave it to me.”
Haden wasn’t particularly noticeable on Sunday. He ended the game with six combined tackles and a sack of quarterback DeShone Kizer. It capped a tumultuous 12 days for the former Pro Bowler. He was released on August 30 and signed with Pittsburgh shortly after. That meant learning new teammates, a new playbook and, oh yeah, facing his former team in Week 1.
“It’s been a little rollercoaster,” Haden said. “I had my son’s birthday planned out here. Then I get cut and then I get picked up by the Steelers, learning a new playbook and everything. It went kind of fast, but I feel like the adjustment went pretty smooth. We got a good group of dudes over here.”
The Browns showed Haden on the video board during the game. The reaction was a bit mixed from the crowd — some cheers but also a smattering of boos.
“It was smooth. They weren’t too crazy,” Haden said. “When I was down there at the Dawg Pound, they were just screaming stuff out, but that’s to be expected.”
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The best news for Haden is now, after getting this game out of the way, he has an opportunity to put the events that led him to Pittsburgh in the rearview mirror. Once he found the visitors locker room — “I didn’t even know where this locker room was,” he said — everything was relatively normal.
It also means his teammates can move past the entire situation, too. Jason McCourty acknowledged it was strange seeing Haden in opposing colors.
“Yeah, very,” McCourty said. “Got a chance to talk to him for a quick second before the game. Obviously, for me, I just got here, so I didn’t have a ton of time with him. But I remember just being on my visit, he was one of the reasons it made it an easy decision for me to come here. To see him Week 1 on the other side is definitely a weird feeling.”
Cornerback Jamar Taylor called Haden wearing a different uniform “old news.”
“Like I said earlier this week, I know Joe-Joe’s going to have a good year,” Taylor said, “that’s good for him but I’m worried about us.”
For Haden, it’s on to his first home game in Pittsburgh. First, though, he’ll get to enjoy something he never has: Being 1-0.
“It felt good. It felt good to be able to get out there and play with my new team and be able to get the win.”