PITTSBURGH and INGLEWOOD, Calif. — When the Steelers signed Patrick Peterson in March, he expected to play all over the field. That included playing in the slot, safety, and other spots, but it had not happened as much through five games as envisioned. Instead, Peterson stuck to his traditional outside cornerback role but struggled to get it going early. However, the bye week with more Joey Porter Jr. on the field opened up the Steelers to moving around Peterson more.
According to Pro Football Focus, Peterson saw snaps at four different spots. He played the most in the last that he has all season, with 29 snaps. He aligned more at free safety and in the box, too. So, the usage for Peterson changed, and his outside cornerback snaps drastically decreased. Mike Tomlin had a simple comparison for Peterson’s usage in this game, and it’s likely the model they have moving forward. He wants to use Peterson similarly to how they used Cam Sutton, who is now on the Detroit Lions.
“That’s why we brought Pat here,” Tomlin said. “Pat’s a veteran player, he’s smart. If you remember, we moved Cam Sutton around a lot. Essentially, he is Cam Sutton. And so, position flexibility was an attractive component to the acquisition of him.”
Fascinating 67 snaps from Patrick Peterson vs LAR
Played inside, outside, free safety, half field, etc
It was like 'Where's Waldo' every snap. 33 years old. What a treasure. pic.twitter.com/oSCuKMqmVp
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) October 23, 2023
Peterson, after the game spoke on this unique usage that he had in the game. You can compare it to a game of ‘Where’s Waldo’ if you would like. He was all over the football field, and the Steelers used different coverages to move guys around. Some of it was dictated by the Rams running so much 11 personnel, but more of it is that Peterson is starting to settle into the role he was asked to play here.
“Well, that’s what I expected when I came here,” Peterson said. “I knew I would play at a lot of different positions, and I looked forward to doing that. You know, it’s been great to see the game from all of those different spots. It’s something I have not done my entire career. But I enjoy it, and any way I can help this defense, I will.”
For Peterson to move inside more, the Steelers need Porter to be ready to play on the outside more. Levi Wallace is seemingly falling out of favor the more he plays. That opens the door for James Pierre to enter the void by Peterson if the Steelers want to do that.
The Steelers have been comfortable with multiple slot options in years past, so it’s not as if the battle is for ultimate primacy. Last season, Art Maulet played run downs while Sutton moved in from outside cornerback on passing downs. In the past, before Sutton was a starter, he and Mike Hilton similarly split the slot role. Peterson and Chandon Sullivan could be rounding into that heading into the second half of the season.