CHARLOTTE (AP) — Cornerback Joe Haden wished to go to a place where he felt wanted and had a chance to make the playoffs.
He believes he’s found both with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The 28-year-old Haden joined the Steelers for their preseason game Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers, but did not play after signing a three-year, $27 million contract the day before. He beamed with delight talking about his new team.
“This just feels like it’s going to be something special,” Haden said with a wide smile.
Haden said his new Steelers teammates have welcomed him with open arms and that it didn’t take long to sense there’s a different atmosphere in Pittsburgh than Cleveland, where he spent his first seven seasons and started 81 games but never made the playoffs.
“In Cleveland we were always trying to grind, always trying to get there. … You talk Super Bowls in Cleveland, but here it’s just a different feeling,” Haden said.
“It’s just like the way coach (Mike Tomlin) talks about it and everybody talks about just winning, winning, winning.
“We were turning it over in Cleveland, but I don’t know how to explain it — especially when you have high-powered guys like Ben (Roethlisberger) in your locker room. When you have an Antonio Brown that is putting up crazy numbers.
“When you have (Martavis) Bryant and you have Le’Veon Bell. You just have those types of weapons all over the place. … These dudes just carry personalities and they are confident in their abilities.”
Haden spent most of the preseason game walking alongside Steelers cornerback William Gay on the sideline, trying to pick up the defensive play calls.
He doesn’t believe it will be a huge adjustment for him.
“It’s the same concepts, but a little bit different terminology,” Haden said.
“Obviously I have a great deal of respect for Joe Haden,” Tomlin said. “He is a top-notch guy. I have known him for a long time. … We are thankful to have him.”
Haden hasn’t been assigned a jersey number yet.
Steelers veteran safety Mike Mitchell currently wears No. 23, but Haden said if he can’t get that number he’ll wear something in the 20s.
Right now the number on his back is the least of his concerns.
“They were super interested in me and I just felt like once I was free I wanted to have a chance to be able to play in some meaningful games,” Haden said of the Steelers.
“I know the Steelers don’t really miss the playoffs so I’m like, ‘I just want to be a part of something where I could play in the playoffs.”
(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)