Carnell Lake Says Joe Haden Capable Of Taking Away Half The Field

Consider Carnell Lake a happy man. Over the last two years, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been hell-on-wheels in adding to their secondary. Drafting Artie Burns and Sean Davis. Trading for J.J. Wilcox. And signing Joe Haden, who might have been the biggest short-term impact of them all. In a rare moment speaking with the media, Lake was pleased with Haden’s performance.

“He’s a stabilizing factor,” Lake told reporters via “He’s experienced. For awhile, teams weren’t throwing his way, really. Just the fact that he can take away a side is crucial.”

Though Haden’s Week One performance was a bit rocky, a byproduct of coming to the team right before the season began, he’s settled in. A learning curve reduced because of the time he spent in Cleveland.

“He picks things up very quickly,” Lake said. “He has some experience with our defensive scheme because of former coaches he had in Cleveland who had Steelers experience, too.”

Lake is referring to Ray Horton, the former Steelers’ defensive backs coach who had two stints in Cleveland as their defensive coordinator. And of course, Haden being a veteran helps cut down the time needed to learn the ins and outs of the system, too.

For the year, Haden has 16 tackles, five pass breakups, a sack, and an interception. Based on our charting, including Sunday’s win over Detroit, Haden has given up just two completions on 11 targets, both of which came in the first week of the season. Opposing offenses have definitely noticed, preferring to pick on Burns (23 targets) instead.

Haden has made Lake’s life easier. His steady, don’t-need-to-worry-about-him presence has let Lake develop the younger guys who need all the coaching they can get.

“Joe is a good teammate. He’s really been able to allow us to concentrate on other guys. My attention has been to focus on other corners to get them ready. Continue to help develop Artie. I think having Joe on the other side is inspiration to him.”

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • I bet Joe’s happy to be here and winning as well!


    If this campaign goes on to result in something special…Colbert could be the unsung MVP.

    The Haden and Alualu signings have been worth their weight in gold.


    True, but he was going to be playing somewhere, and just about anywhere would deliver more wins.

    It sounds like Tomlin made an impression on him over the years, and the feeling was mutual…given how quickly he signed, I can believe it.

    I think both are better off for sure!

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    I think it’s appropriate to remember that a coupe of years ago we had a great debate about Carnell Lake on this very blog site.

    Some people were calling for Lake to be fired because our pass defense was so bad, that must mean he’s a bad coach. Other people argued he was a good coach, but that he had no talent to work with.

    The Steelers go out and draft a 1st round CB, and a 2nd round SS, and then sign a $10+ million pro bowl CB. Suddenly we have the #2 ranked pass defense in the NFL, and Lake looks like a lot better coach. Go figure.

    I’m a firm believer that in today’s NFL you must have (at least) two high caliber CB’s to limit the top passing offenses. We have that now. And our defense is looking very strong once again.

    Kudos to Kevin Colbert for going out and getting us some talent in the secondary. And Kudos to Lake for coaching them well.

  • MintDragon

    Yep, for sure. And Joe certainly values stability in an organization coming from an annual dumpster fire while hearing and witnessing the Steelers’ stability year in and year out. Great signing.

  • colingrant

    Went from being on teams who annually played zero meaningful games after Halloween to a team who plays meaningful games after the New Year………….and paid 7 mil to boot. Power-ball winner equivalent.

  • John Pennington

    Like Joes play but needs to tackle better still better than Burns in that area.

  • Uncle Rico.

    Haden gave up 2 big completions Sunday. The 34 yarder to Marvin Jones early in the second quarter and the 33 yarder to TJ Jones under a minute left in the half. First one they were in that Cover 4, 4 Under, rush 3 defense Butler likes for long yardage and at/near redzone. Haden had deep outside coverage. Or should have. Second one they showed C3 presnap then rolled to a C2-Man. But it’s basically bracketing the #2s and the outside corners manned the #1s. Haden usually has an outstanding shuffle technique and feel for the receiver, where he will squeeze/pin the WR to the sideline, while being able to look back at the QB. But on this play he failed to squeeze the receiver and lost him. Otherwise had a really good game.

  • Chad Weiss

    Not to mention Hilton and the draft

  • ZD

    Lake should get a lot of credit for Mike Hilton most of all imo.

  • ZD

    He looks like a legit player who didn’t turn into a starter until he got to PGH, he was previously released by Jacksonville and New England.

  • francesco

    Carnell…tell us something we already know!

  • Sdale

    What a pick-up. I was so stoked that we got him. I was obviously a little nervous with him coming back from injury, but I also hoped that his 2nd year he would be fully healed. He’s actually been better than I expected. I’m sure there will be a game or 2 that he has some struggles, but every corner has that. Such a huge upgrade over Cockrell. I’m not trying to dog Cockrell because I thought he worked hard and did his best. It’s just that his ceiling is probably Joe’s floor.

  • ryan72384

    And how about Hadens pick that wasn’t because of the penalty? It was a thing of beauty. Blanket coverage step for step with the reciever and then he became the reciever and went up and high pointed the ball and just grabbed it out of the air.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Well said

  • SeventhHeavan

    You took the words right out of me man. Absolutely awesome pick even though it didn’t count. We Steeler fans have been starved for a CB to have those kinds of hands and ability.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Aw man! A++++

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    He’s been absolutely worth every penny. I’m so happy bout this guy!

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I don’t understand how this guy goes undrafted. He was good in college, and dude just falls in our lap! Just think next year we can build defensive depth in the draft! 😀

  • hdogg48

    Let’s see…..Joe Haden…or….Ross Cockrell.

    Gee that’s a tough one.

    To say that Haden is an upgrade gives new meaning to the
    term “understatement”.

  • Fred Duquette

    Didn’t Alex and Dave poo poo the signing of Joe Haden?

  • pittsburghjoe

    Haden, Hilton and Alualu. What a tremendous impact the 3 have made.

  • pittsburghjoe

    Mmmm, I thought there were Pom poms, not poo poo’s.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    10 years ago maybe.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    golson was the big name.

  • gdeuce

    nope, only 2 completions he has given up were from week 1

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    True, but Hilton was still a good player!

  • Uncle Rico.

    He gave up 2 Sunday as well.

  • pittfan

    +100. That was an awesome play.

  • Rich Stafford

    Yes they did. I have been waiting for the obligatory boy was I wrong article.The Same people defended Cockrell.

  • Rich Stafford

    Unless you have the all 22 film most times it’s almost impossible to tell. People often blame the CB and he only has responsibility for the flat. He did squat on one route for sure.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    TruDat. It also didn’t hurt that he had a couple of teammates from his college days to lobby him

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    Hilton just flat out plays. He is a good athlete but plays disciplined and makes play that come to him…usually in a whoa type of fashion.

  • MC

    Dont’ forget about McDonald in the blocking department.

  • Unsung MVP? You mean the guy who assemble the complete roster?

  • Tom McConnell

    I defended Cockrell, he worked very hard. I never ever classified him as a top flight corner. Getting Haden, well I had to check several sites before I believed it.

    Any player that works hard will always get my support.

  • Hec

    Simply added the necessary pieces that the defense needed to fill the holes would better stated, but I’m understood what you were getting at. The defense still has some ironing out before we could consider it complete.

  • Hec

    Haden was that missing piece of the puzzle that we needed to solve our secondary issues, and we’re fortunate to have him on the roster. Let us enjoy the best that he has left in him Steelers Nation! Enjoy the ride!

  • mezzetin1

    Unfortunately, there are quite a few “fans” who berate Colbert at every turn. Just like Tomlin.

  • gdeuce

    no he didn’t

  • walter

    Will you still be praising Lake if Brady shreds apart our zone defense again? Lake did not coach up Haden. He said so himself. Before I praise Lake I want to see if he is able to adjust to beat Brady and everything Im hearing says he is not changing anything.

  • walter

    Golson was a “big name” because of his interceptions but many draft gurus considered him a reach in the 2nd round . Some even suggested Golson would go undrafted as well. .

  • paddy

    I don’t think that is true


    To most the fans that come on this and other Steeler forums…we know, but you think the average fan knows Colbert?

  • Ed Smith

    You would rather have Ross Cockrell????

  • Ed Smith



    Good post…I’ll add…you really need 3 CBs because the slot WR now is really a starter and game impact position…Hilton has made a huge difference. Gay will man the dime the rest of this yr, but with Sutton on the mend hopefully, I think PIT are 4 deep @ CB and all can play and make plays.

  • Carl Mendelius

    Colbert has done a nice draft job the last couple of years: Burns, Davis, Hargrave, Watt, Juju. But he made a major mistake with Ladarius Green and the team still needs badly a good TE. James and McDonald are not good enough. Colbert is going to face his biggest challenge in the next couple of years: finding Ben´s replacement and I hope he begins to work on it asap. I also hope he acts aggressively and not afraid to trade up when he finds his man. His selection of Dobbs last draft was a mistake because the kid has no accuracy and nobody can coach accuracy.

  • Carl Mendelius

    Lake has done nothing for the secondary in all his tenure, he should be fired. The same goes for Haley only worse because he has had a lot a talent to work with and the offense is pathetic in the red zone. Just pathetic.

  • Rich Stafford

    I would never pretend to know if a guy works hard. I’m not in meetings or practice. If I did know I wouldn’t care. Results driven business. All Cockrell did was make Burns look better. He was the path of least resistance. Burns doesn’t look so good opposite Haden.

  • I think most of them want him fired right?

  • Not even close to what I meant. Most of the commentors/posters here usually want him fired. Usually when his name comes up in conversation while here at the Depot, what follows is, his misses in the draft and FA, bad contracts, etc.

    This team usually succeeds in spite of coaching and team management from the coaching staff and front office. I wish these detractors could see how ridiculous they are sometimes.


    Early on I think it was mostly a Colbert show…the last 3 or 4 yrs I think it’s had more influence from Tomlin.

    No question, 20/20 hindsight…or even a reasonable amount of foresight would have been gone a long way with Green.

    I’m not ready to say McDonald is not a go forward pc yet, but they definitely need to look for a long term answer at TE and imo FS or move Davis to FS and land a play making SS in the draft. ILB has to be on their mind as well.

    QB…I’m a Dobbs fan, I like his smarts, the ofc should be no problem for him and the added dimension of running…I like that in a QB2…as a QB1 candidate…I’m not as enthused and agree they need to be aggressive much like KC was to get the guy they wanted.


    There are probably more fire Tomlin, than fire Colbert voices out there when things turn south. I’ll have to admit I have been that guy at times.

    Colbert/Tomlin have missed on some picks that has delayed or slowed the growth of the DEF because they had to invest more high picks at those positions…Hood and Jarvis Jones, Cortez Allen come to mind, but they have been on a strong uptick the last 3 drafts.

    I think that’s pretty common for the GM to take heat from hardcore fans when they miss.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Love the addition of Haden. Had been saying since the off-season, the Steelers needed to add a quarterback so Burns could be the two and learn for awhile. Now that’s clearly the case.

  • Grant Humphrey

    He thought he had help over the top from Mike Mitchell but he didn’t so that’s why that happened

  • walter

    Which part? Well thats what i read somewhere. I cant search for it now. Yea he was a big name but his measurables were not nfl and he was obviously a bust. Now Hiltons measurables are not good either but apparently he is a special person. When i read that Golson was spending his time working security as part owner of a rowdy nightclub, i saw that as bad sign.

  • When drafting a QB, remember you guys want him to be aggressive and go get the guy they love. There is no problem with that until the guy is a bust. The detractors will not only ding him for the selection but all they gave up as well.

  • His hit/miss record among high picks should speak for it’s self. If you count his 1st round misses, you got Ziggy Hood, Jarvis Jones, and some people argue Kendal Simmons should be on that list. They count the hits. Burress, Big Snack, Polumalu Ben, Heath, Holmes, Timmons, Mendenhall, Pounce, Heyward, DeCastro, and Shazier. The later picks the jury is still out although they look good.

    And maybe all though guys weren’t all pros but all of them enjoyed a lot of league success. Some of them are among the best of their positions.

    That would be 12 – 3 in a 15 year span from 2000 to 2015.

    Yea as the rounds go on his hit percentage fades but it think that is a global thing and not a Steelers/Colbert thing.

    Every year come draft time, you always here the “experts” talking about how important it is to hit on your number 1 pick, that if you miss it will set your franchise back a few years. Colbert has done that very well. And this team has be competitive every year Colbert has been here.

    He must be doing something right.

  • More with the little brother syndrome…

    For god sakes give it a rest once in a while.


    “He must be doing something right”

    Preaching to the choir here…I agree 100%.

    The main reason imo the Steelers didn’t totally bottom out as they transitioned from the SB winning team…Ben. But, Colbert rebuilt the OL, the entire DEF (almost), and got weapons for Ben in time to give him one more run at a 3rd ring.

    That’s impressive.

  • I couldn’t agree more.

  • Tom McConnell

    You can tell in a game if someone works hard. I also believe it when his coach & fellow players say so. So there is no pretending about it. Never seen him give up on a play. Not once.

    Plus I’m sure you don’t consider any source but yourself. Haters will hate, no matter what. I’m also sure that you draft better than Colbert.

    Whether you believe it or not, for a short period of time he was the best corner we had. But you will only judge Cockrell against the top flight guys. Cockrell is a slightly above average corner. Results…maybe you should look at his results but learn to put things in prospective. He was brought in for depth and had to start.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Apparently you don’t understand how an NFL coaching staff operates.

    Carnell Lake does not decide which type of schemes are called, or how deep the players align themselves on the snap, or how aggressive they play the pass, or even which players are on the field. That is Keith Butler’s job (under supervision from Mike Tomlin).

    Lake’s job is to train the defensive backs (on technique, etc) during practice, and to relay live messages from the D.C. and H.C. during the game, and to review principles of the pre-game plan during the game, as well as offering instruction and support if the players are making mistakes.

    If we play a majority zone defense again vs Brady (which I hope we don’t) we will get torched again by Brady. That is on Butler and Tomlin. Not Lake.

    My point was that you can have the best QB coach in the world, but if your QB is C.J. Bethard, you’re not going to produce good results. Likewise, you can have the worst QB in the world, but if your QB is Aaron Rodgers, you’re going to produce good results. Same applies for DB coaches.

    Like you, I also hope that we do well against Brady. But if at the halfway point of the season we are statistically ranked as the #2 pass defense in the NFL (which we are), then yes, I’m willing acknowledge that our pass defense has improved, regardless of whether or not we beat the Patriots. And I will still be praising Lake then.

    I hope that helps clarify.

  • Carl Mendelius

    I remind you that its almost impossible to find a good QB after the 15th or 20th pick. They need to do their homework just like the Eagles and Houston did when they got Wentz and Watson the last. couple of years.

  • Good QBs can be had after those picks and you can whiff just as easily selecting one in the top 15.

    Selecting a franchise QB is probably the hardest this to do in all of francjise sports.

    Shall we go throught all of the top 15 misses and hits after those picks.

    I’ll take you to school if you like.

  • walter

    Ok thanks. IMO our secondary is much improved because of Haden not the coach.. He came to us not needing any coaching. Even if Lake has nothing to do with our losing to Brady, im just not sold on Lake enough to be praising him yet. Im glad you also agree we will will get torched by Brady unless we change something. And ok if Brady torches us again, I cant blame Lake. Lake was a great player. He played Safety and CB but little experience coaching but i cant blame him for bad scheme i got that but it would seem he has some influence. If i was Lake and if i knew what the problem was, i would be screaming for change. . I hope he has good a coach as some people think he is. I have nothing against Lake and i hope he can influence change. Man its hard to type on this celphon. Thanks again.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Very good points. I agree with you that Haden has nothing to do with Lake (and vice versa). He was a star when he got here and has been playing like a star ever since.

    I also agree that, although Lake was a very good player, I’m not necessarily sure one way or another if he’s a good coach. He may be good at teaching technique. He may not be. But this is the first chance he has ever had to coach “elite” players. So now (going forward) we shall see.

    The biggest concern I have is (like you said) whether all this improved talent is put into the proper scheme to beat Brady. I sure hope so. Because if we play another loose zone defense against him on December 17, I think I’m gonna have an aneurism.