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Patrick Peterson Wants Advanced Notice if Team Wants Him at Safety

Patrick Peterson said a team needs to notify him earlier if they are looking into him as a safety rather than a cornerback.



Steelers Patrick Peterson
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Patrick Peterson at OTAs on May 25, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Patrick Peterson laid out his timeline to sign with a club in free agency during an appearance on the Fox NFL Podcast Thursday. Peterson, 33, was released by the Steelers in a cap-saving move on March 9. A possible reunion is still on the table, but Peterson is going to weigh his options.

“At this stage now, the draft is around the corner,” Peterson said. “Teams are still trying to build their roster, but at the same time, you want to make sure that whatever team that you’re going to that you’re going to that you’re not getting any BS. … I think a lot more signings are probably going to happen towards after the draft once teams really understand what they have on the roster and what they may need to continue to improve their rosters. … Me and my agent have had conversations with a couple of teams, nothing really serious thus far. But there has been conversations, and like I said, we’ll see what happens in the next couple months.”

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 did OK at safety but struggled to tackle at times, which is a key component of playing the position.

Peterson is not open to playing safety unless he gets notified before the season so he can prepare for it.

“I don’t want to start at safety because that’s a different animal back there, a different view,” Peterson said. “If that is the case, I would need to be warned going into the season to get my body, my mental prepared. Because it’s different being at safety from a cornerback position having those open-field tackles. … And you’re the last line of defense. So if that is something, I would need notice and probably get one of those old-time safeties like a Ed Reed and or (Troy) Polamalu or somebody to coach me up.”

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said at the NFL owner’s meetings that they’re leaving the door ajar for a Peterson return.

“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.”

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 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.

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.

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. But that will a post-draft signing if it occurs.