It wasn’t a textbook tackle, but it got the job done in more ways than one.
What cornerback Joe Haden did more than anything else late in the first quarter last Sunday in Baltimore was get in the way.
In doing so, Haden led the way.
“Any means necessary,” he explained. “We live to fight another down.”
To defensive end and defensive captain Cam Heyward, the effort meant everything.
“There was this play where Baltimore pulls a tackle who weighs about 360 pounds, full steam, and he’s going to clear out Joe Haden,” Heyward recalled. “And Joe Haden just gives him his shoulder, bounces off and then makes the tackle.
“As much as we talk about the coverages and everything being sound, that play stood out to me because you have a guy like Joe Haden, who can play any coverage, come out and make a big stop for us.”
The play occurred on first-and-10 from the Baltimore 25-yard line with 1:03 left in the first quarter.
The Ravens pulled tackle Orlando Brown, whose official playing weight is listed at 345 pounds. Running back Alex Collins followed Brown into what became a big hole on the right side of the Steelers’ defense.
Haden bounced off Brown, as Heyward noted, managed to grab onto Collins while falling to the ground, then hung on and eventually pulled Collins down from the ground.
Collins might otherwise still be running.
“‘Coach T.’ (head coach Mike Tomlin) actually talked to us about it, about DBs not being able to tackle and DBs being afraid to even attack the edge of the defense,” Heyward continued. “It’s just become a lost art in the game right now.
“That’s what our DBs have to do, be willing to adapt to any situation and hit it straight on.”
Haden has not only gotten the message, he’s setting the standard in that capacity.
“That’s what it is now, it’s just become ordinary” Haden offered. “Little dudes don’t tackle anymore, you just cover. They just take that as acceptable.
“That’s not going to be acceptable for us. (Tomlin) wants us to crack a play, make sure DBs are putting their hats in there, make sure they’re making plays.”
The Steelers’ defensive backs have been making their share of late in whatever configuration.
Haden’s tackle of Collins in last Sunday’s 23-16 victory over the Ravens was an example of that type of adaptability.
So was the pass defensed cornerback Coty Sensabaugh registered on a deep ball down the right sideline from quarterback Joe Flacco to wide receiver Michael Crabtree with the Steelers trying to preserve a seven-point lead in the final minute of regulation.
So were the passes defensed in the end zone by nickel cornerback Mike Hilton (first quarter) and strong safety Terrell Edmunds (third quarter), the Steelers’ only other passes defensed on the afternoon.
So were Hilton’s two tackles for a loss, including one on read-option quarterback Lamar Collins in space on a third-and-2 from the at Steelers’ 4.
“The secondary has really stepped up for us,” Heyward said.
Haden was motivated to do so when Brown was bearing down on him for a couple of reasons.
“Better not get embarrassed,” Haden said of his thought process in the moment. “Literally, I was thinking about, once this tape comes up and we watch the film of the game, I wanted to show that I don’t care. I’m trying to do whatever I can to make a play. I don’t care how big they are.
“In the inside, when we watch tape, that’s what sticks out. The guys are like, ‘OK, his hand’s obviously in the pile.’”
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