BROWNS WR COREY COLEMAN VS. STEELERS CB JOE HADEN
If head of football operations Sashi Brown and Co. were right about Joe Haden, Corey Coleman should run by him early and relatively often. Brown determined Haden wasn’t worth the $11.1 million he was due and was therefore expendable in a season with modest expectations. The surprising decision to cut him Aug. 30 was based on Haden’s injury issues the last two years, the correlating drop in production and the conviction he couldn’t regain his Pro Bowl form. If that’s the correct evaluation, Coleman, 23 and a first-round pick last season, should have no problem exposing Haden in his Steelers debut. Motivation from playing his former team won’t make Haden run faster, feel healthier or use better technique.
“It was just a business decision that they made that the salary wasn’t matching up to my last two years of production,” Haden said. “I definitely feel as if I still have it. No hard feelings with anybody, but I feel like I’m the best corner in the division.”
The visual of Haden in black and yellow will be jarring. “Weird” was the adjective used most often by his former teammates. But once the game gets going, it will be about matchups. If Cleveland’s offense hopes to keep up with Pittsburgh’s high-powered attack, Coleman (or former Steelers speedster Sammie Coates) vs. Haden is one the Browns should try to exploit.
“I expect every time I am lined up out there that they might throw the ball to me,” Haden said. “I’m going to be locked in. I’m going to be ready to go and be ready to make some plays.”
Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer gives the Browns the chance to stretch the field and stress Haden with his strong right arm. He showed in the preseason he has the talent and guts to take shots down the field.
“I anticipate Coach (Hue Jackson) is going to try to do what is required to win the game and throwing the ball deep is a part of that,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “He has thrown the ball deep on us in the past, regardless of who we have had at corner.”
Haden and Coleman are close friends, and they matched up numerous times in practice during their time as teammates.
“It went back and forth. Everybody has their days. I’m excited for Sunday,” Coleman said. “We are both going to go out there and do our best and give our teams the best chance to win. I have no doubt about that. I know he is going to bring his A-game.”
Haden tried to downplay the emotions and distractions surrounding his quick return to FirstEnergy Stadium.
“Honestly, for me it is going to be another game,” he said. “Always when I go out there, my job is to lock down receivers. That is just what I plan to do. I know I’m playing against my boy Corey. That is like a brother to me. We are super good friends. When we are on the field, it is what it is. I have to do my job, and they have to do theirs, but off the game field it is all love.”
Brown hopes for a big game from Coleman against Haden for many reasons. It would validate the decision to cut Haden and make his often-questioned selection of Coleman at No. 15 last year look better.
“He has to go out and play his tail off for us,” Jackson said. “Corey has to and he will show up on Sunday and play well. I believe that. He is poised for a big game.”