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Could the Steelers Bring Patrick Peterson Back?

The Pittsburgh Steelers could make a big move to bring back Patrick Peterson as the team’s slot cornerback.

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Pittsburgh Steelers CB Patrick Peterson Salary cap
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Patrick Peterson celebrates an interception against the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 23, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Pittsburgh Steelers filled two spots in the secondary by acquiring Donte Jackson and signing DeShon Elliott. However, after releasing Patrick Peterson, there is still no slot cornerback on the team. Chandon Sullivan, who manned that spot once Peterson moved to safety, is also a free agent.

But on the All Things Covered Podcast, Peterson stated that in his phone call with Mike Tomlin, the door for a return could be open.

“It was a shocking phone call, just coming off a break, but then I had an opportunity to talk to Coach [Mike] Tomlin, we had some great dialogue and an opportunity to really talk. Because like I said, I was just getting off a cruise, so I didn’t have time to talk to him and see what came into the decision. Then later on, I had an opportunity, me and Coach Tomlin to get on the phone and talk about some things and the door may still be open,” Peterson said on the podcast via SteelerNation.

Peterson, 33, played one season with the Steelers in 2023 and had been under contract for 2024. His release will bring the Steelers significant salary cap savings, but open a hole for a starting cornerback opposite Joey Porter Jr.

An eight-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro, Peterson was a first-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2o11 and spent 10 seasons in the desert, where he collected most of the accolades that make up a Hall of Fame resume. He was a member of the NFL 2010s All-Decade team as one of the most decorated cornerbacks of his time. And he hopes he can return to help Joey Porter Jr. And Tomlin did not close the door on a possible reunion.

“We’re open to it as well,” Tomlin said. “But, you know, there’s so much business in front of us and we just felt like it was appropriate to be transparent with him to give him an opportunity to assess what’s out there totality.”

Mark Kaboly talked about the possibility of it occurring on Friday on 93.7 the Fan, and he does think that the Steelers could look to bring Peterson back if they do not get the right player in the slot.

He signed with the Steelers in 2023, citing a long-time desire to play for head coach Mike Tomlin and also to play for the franchise of his cousin, former Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden. Peterson and McFadden share a podcast, All Things Covered.

In 2023, Peterson started 16 of 17 games and played in 97% of Pittsburgh’s defensive snaps, while also showing off a significant level of versatility that had not been tapped earlier in his career.

Peterson played 208 snaps as a slot cornerback in 2023, according to Pro Football Focus, nearly double his previous career high. He also played 105 snaps of box safety, also near double his previous high mark, and 218 snaps of free safety, despite playing just a handful over his first 12 seasons.

Peterson could end up being that guy, but with the slot cornerback market still evolving, Tomlin knows that they have names on the board, but it could come in the draft or after the draft.

“We’ve got some candidates, but obviously we’re probably still looking,” Tomlin said. “I think that’s the position that we’re all looking for and looking at annually because some of the demands that come with the position in the NFL are somewhat different than in college. In college, oftentimes that guy is a safety-like guy. The coverage is so significant in the NFL, that most of the time that guy’s a corner-like guy, so I think we’re all kind of scouring that position annually and seeing what’s available in terms of ready main talent and so forth.”

Peterson hopes to return to the team and expressed gratitude for his one season under Tomlin. Now, it will be up to the Steelers and how the draft board falls to find their solution in that slot, whether that is Peterson or someone else.