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Unlikely Steelers Safety Duo Stuns with Big Plays in Win



Steelers CB Patrick Peterson
Steelers DB Patrick Peterson celebrates his interception against the Cincinnati Bengals, Dec. 23, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers were down their top four safeties against the Cincinnati Bengals, but emphatically, Patrick Peterson and Eric Rowe stuck out in a big way. The team got interceptions from both of them and though both had some flaws, for a makeshift group, the veterans shined.

“Can’t say enough about the contributions of guys like Pat Peterson, Eric Rowe, and Myles Jack,” head coach Mike Tomlin said. “We talked last week about, specifically about Rowe and Jack, about how significant their presence was. We didn’t have them on developing on the practice squad as players, we had them on the practice squad as capable players. Guys that we can call upon and give up varsity-like work, effort, and their play reflected that. We got sack from Jack, we got an interception from Rowe, and Pat in his first game full time as a safety. I’m just really appreciative of the group’s efforts and versatility.”

In the past, many older, future Hall of Fame cornerbacks have moved to safety to extend their careers. You can look at Rod Woodson, Charles Woodson, Ronde Barber, and others. Peterson stated that could be something that ends up working for him throughout the rest of his career. His goal was always to play 15 seasons, and while he is on leg 13 of that tour, the move to safety could get him there. He is as intelligent as ever and has elite ball skills, even if the athleticism is as elite as it once was from that spot. Tomlin is not surprised that Peterson pulled it off.

“He’s a really sharp football player first and foremost who’s very experienced,” Tomlin said of Peterson. “He sees the game from a coach’s perspective and within that, he can step outside of his helmet. That allows for versatilty. But this is not the first time we’ve talked about Pat’s versatility. Oftentimes, when you guys ask about him, we thoughtfully pursued that in free agency. We lost a versatile guy in Cam Sutton and we realized that Pat was a guy who had versatility and intellect.”

It’s a trial by fire for Rowe, but he is not foreign to these types of games in December football. Rowe, 31, has played for the Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins since coming into the league as a second-round pick of the Eagles out of Utah in 2015.

He won Super Bowls LI and LIII with the New England Patriots. In his eight-year NFL career, Rowe has played in 100 games and made 56 starts. He has recorded 381 tackles, 41 passes defended, seven tackles for loss, five quarterback hits, two sacks, six forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

“When I played the Steelers you could always see the towels rolling and feel the energy, but this time, it feels good to be on this side,” Rowe said. “I am so tired. You can do all the running you want, but game shape is (different). The only way to do it is be in the game — we use preseason games to kind of get it rolling, but we are in December and there’s no time for that. I was tired, first game back, but that will come along.”

But that makeshift group did enough to get by against a talented group of receivers from the Bengals. Trenton Thompson and Minkah Fitzpatrick might be coming as reinforcements to help out in a must-win game.