He might be up there in age for the cornerback position, but new Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Patrick Peterson remains a very cerebral player, one that wins between the ears now more than he does physically.
For former NFL head coach and defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, the Steelers are getting a veteran player who is “so damn smart and instinctive,” he said Tuesday in a video on Twitter for the 33rd Team.
Peterson, who will play the 2023 season at 33 years old, is entering his 13th season in the NFL. Typically, for cornerbacks at Peterson’s age, the downfall from a skill standpoint is swift and brutal. Peterson hasn’t reached that point yet.
After losing Cameron Sutton in free agency to the Detroit Lions on a 3-year, $33 million deal, the Steelers and GM Omar Khan reacted quickly. They landed Peterson with a 2-year, $14-million deal, adding a veteran, impact player at a position of need who can also serve as a mentor. It was a sound move, according to Pagano, who praised Peterson heavily.
“You’re getting a great veteran, a guy who has obviously played a lot of great football. Shoot, I think he had 15 passes defensed and five interceptions last season for the Vikings. Is he going to be a guy you bring in and play a bunch of single-high, man-to-man, press coverage? Probably not this late in his career, but he’s so damn smart and instinctive,” Pagano said regarding Peterson, according to video from the 33rd Team’s Twitter page. “Can turn the ball over like we just talked about. So you’re bringing in another guy that’s so, so solid on the field, off the field. Gonna be a great veteran presence in that locker room.
“You lose Cameron Sutton to the Lions, you bring him in, and they’ll probably go get a young cover guy, a young corner in this draft. So, he’ll be a great guy to have there to train and to teach these young guys how to be great pros and how to survive and have a great long career in the National Football League.”
While Peterson can certainly still play at a reasonably high level, based on his 2022 season in which he recorded five interceptions and played a career-high 1,104 snaps for the Minnesota Vikings, it does feel like the addition of Peterson is more in that Joe Haden role as a steady mentor to help a young room come along.
The Steelers will undoubtedly add a cornerback in the 2023 NFL Draft, which happens to have an exceptionally deep class at the position.
After losing a key guy like Sutton, who was a great communicator and extremely smart on the field, knowing the role of everyone on the defense, adding a player of Peterson’s caliber and experience is a good get for the black and gold. He’ll communicate well, will know what his role is, and will step into a leadership role soon, even on a veteran defense.
We’ll see what his exact fit is defensively from a scheme standpoint as he’s not that high-end, man-to-man coverage guy at this point in his career. He likely won’t move around much, like Sutton did, too. It’s a curious fit on the field, but it should be a seamless one off the field and in the locker room.