The Steelers do not have much to positive about. Their defense is getting gashed up the middle with the lack of linebackers, and the offense remains inept despite leadership changes. With that in mind, what gives? Well, there are at least some positives to embrace. For one, Elandon Roberts looks like an imposing player at inside linebacker. But Patrick Peterson is another positive from these last few weeks.
Peterson has become a solid player since the beginning of November, which coincides with his move around the formation rather than just sticking it out at outside cornerback. He has allowed just seven receptions for 58 yards on 11 targets with three pass breakups in that time span.
Pittsburgh brought him in to be a player who would replace Cam Sutton’s versatility, and it seems like that is going much better than his stint at outside cornerback did.
“I think I’m still a cornerback,” Peterson said. “But I’m just the Joker in the deck of cards. I’m one of the two Jokers. It does feel different because I never had the opportunity to do it in any of the other places I was at,” Peterson said. “Like I talked about early on when I first signed here, coach (Mike Tomlin) told me I would have the opportunity to do that. My eyes just lit up because I want to be a ballplayer and be at any position they feel, and I feel can help the team be successful. It’s just a new challenge that I love and embrace.”
Pittsburgh had a plan for Peterson to become their next Cam Sutton. Even after he moved to outside cornerback, Sutton never stopped being the critical cog in the defensive secondary, playing all over the place. But that was his selling point, and Pittsburgh hopes that Peterson’s football IQ could allow him to come and step into that role. It has mixed results at points, but the thought is to get him out of man coverage, which will enable him to cover space and read with his eyes rather than react to the guy in front of him.
At 33 years old, Peterson has admittedly lost a step. But in the zone coverage heavy Vikings defense a year ago, Peterson enjoyed a renaissance season. He used his eyes and ball skills to become a feared ballhawk. It turns out that Peterson has a lot left in the tank when used in the slot and as a versatile chess piece, and Pittsburgh may have found something there.