Pro Football Focus ranks Steven Nelson higher than Joe Haden in their 2021 Cornerback Rankings
Did the Pittsburgh Steelers make a mistake by releasing Steven Nelson during the 2021 offseason? Only time will tell if they did make a mistake, but Nelson is on the record saying the Steelers did not give him an option to take a pay cut to stay with the team. I'm not sure why they didn't even try to work anything out with him unless Nelson was just not happy with the organization. Who knows what really happened between Nelson and the Steelers, but he ended up being released during the 2021 offseason.
Nelson still remains on the free-agent market, but I would expect him to sign with a team before training camp. I would be shocked if he doesn't find a suitable team for himself this season. Pro Football Focus believes Steven Nelson is a better cornerback than Joe Haden. In their recent article ranking the 32 best outside cornerbacks entering the 2021 season they ranked Steven Nelson the 13th best outside cornerback. Joe Haden was ranked the 17th best outside cornerback.
Pro Football Focus ranked Steven Nelson as a top 10 cornerback in the league who allowed a completion rate of 53.9% and a passer rating of 75.1 among 68 players at the cornerback position to see at least 100 targets since 2019 according to Pro Football Focus. 14 teams have shown interest in Nelson since being released by the Pittsburgh Steelers and PFF says they're not surprised by the amount of interest he is getting during the offseason so far.
The Steelers felt the better option was to keep Joe Haden in Pittsburgh who is going into his final season with the organization. He is 32 years old, but when he is on the football field with the Steelers he makes plenty of plays for the team. Pro Football Focus feels Haden may be on a downward slope of his career, but he has been a steady cornerback on the Pittsburgh Steelers throughout the years.
Haden has had nine interceptions over the past three seasons with the Steelers. That number should be even higher because Haden has dropped nine interceptions since 2018 which are tied for the most at the cornerback position according to Pro Football Focus. So Joe Haden could have had even more interceptions, but I must say Joe Haden has been the most consistent cornerback the Steelers have had in recent years. This will be a very interesting season for him since it will be his final year under contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers.