Steelers bank on Joe Haden to solve CB problems once and for all

PITTSBURGH -- Three years, $27 million says it all.

The Pittsburgh Steelers believe Joe Haden is a legitimate answer to their annual cornerback problem.

Even if Haden is a No. 2 at this point, pair him with Artie Burns and deepen the intrigue with a talented Steelers defense.

Pittsburgh has built depth with William Gay, Ross Cockrell, Coty Sensabaugh, Cameron Sutton and others. They will need that depth with nickel packages and different matchups. But it became clear during camp that a sturdy No. 2 option on the outside was not on the roster. Why else would the Steelers take some of Cockrell's first-team reps and give them to Sensabaugh?

Players are excited about this move. One prominent player on the defense told me they were "hyped" to acquire a player who can help instantly.

The money is more than expected, but $7 million in the first year isn't outrageous, and the Steelers don't structure contracts with guarantees beyond the first year or occasional roster bonus. In other words, this likely isn't a $9-million-per-year proposition, but something in between. The Steelers entered the day with about $13 million in cap space and should be able to finalize a deal with defensive end Stephon Tuitt, too.

Despite battling injuries the last two years, Haden was a high-level corner before then and has had success in the past guarding talented Bengals receiver A.J. Green, whom the Steelers see twice a year. Former Browns coach Mike Pettine was on record in 2014 saying Haden was one of the league's best. Obviously the Browns felt production didn't match the $11.1-million salary, but the guy can still play, and the age (28) works.

He can play man, which the Steelers want, but if he's lost a step, he'll be capable in the Steelers' zone coverage. For Pittsburgh, it's about flexibility and matchups. Haden enhances both areas.

Stocked with first-round picks and returning most of its starters, the Steelers' defense believes the window is now to chase a seventh championship.

Time to load up, especially at cornerback.