Respect, not revenge, on Haden's radar

For Joe Haden, Sunday in Cleveland is going to be about respect more than revenge.

"He's more concerned about earning his new teammates' respect than he is beating his former team," Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler maintained. "If it was me, that's the way I would feel about it. What meant more to me as a player, and I think it does to him, I think it does to a lot of guys in this league, what means more to them than anything else is, do I have the respect of my teammates? And what I mean by that, am I playing tough? Am I studying my craft? Am I trying to prepare myself as best as I can in order to produce the best performance that I can have?"

Haden played cornerback for the Browns from 2010-16.

He was released by Cleveland just before the conclusion of the preseason and signed by the Steelers as a free agent on Aug. 30.

One of the reasons Haden ultimately landed with the Steelers, he said, was the respect Steelers' players showed him in trying to recruit him after he'd been cut by Cleveland.

"As soon as I got released, my phone was blowing up," Haden said. "(Maurkice) Pouncey, then (Marcus) Gilbert, then Antonio (Brown), those dudes hit me as soon as I got released, 'Joe, come to the Steelers.'"

The objective now, Haden maintained, is to return the favor and justify the faith.

"My biggest thing is always my peers," he said. "That's the thing that really helped me feel good about Big Ben (Roethlisberger) and Pouncey and Antonio Brown wanting me to come here. Having that love and having that respect from your peers, that's the best thing you can ask for.

"They've seen me play before with the Browns but I want to show them I work hard at practice, this is what I do, I'm a professional. I love football and every day I'm trying to get better. As long as I do that the coaches, the play, everything is going to go along wth it."

Haden said the Cowboys' Dez Bryant also reached out.

"I was getting calls from all my guys in the league," Haden said. "They showed they respect my game."

Haden wasn't healthy in 2016, what turned out to be his final season in Cleveland.

But two groin surgeries later he said he's "right where I was at before I had the injuries."

His work in practice this week has included running deep down the sideline with Darrius Heyward-Bey, one of the Steelers' fastest receivers.

The Steelers prepare for the Week 1 matchup against the Cleveland Browns.

"All of these dudes are running, but especially being able to run against him, I feel good, I feel 100 percent," Haden said. "I've been feeling like this since the beginning of training camp. I know I can get up and go now, so that's not a thing I'm worried about.

"Being able to run with him just shows everybody else that I'm ready to run."

Added Butler: "I like what I've seen out there in the field. He appears to be healthy to me."

What Haden can mean to the Steelers' defense remains to be seen.

"We have (outside linebacker and No. 1 pick) T.J. (Watt) and we have Joe," Butler said. "I think those are two good acquisitions for us. But I don't know until we start playing."

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