PITTSBURGH — Patrick Peterson knows he’s not 23 anymore. Or 28 for that matter.
That doesn’t mean the newest member of the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary believes he’s slowing down.
Yes, at 32 the eight-time Pro Bowl cornerback knows he might not be able to track wide receivers nearly a decade younger step-for-step all the time.
Yet Peterson believes he can make up for whatever he might have lost in quickness with the wisdom gained from being one of the best players in the league for 12 years and counting.
If anything, Peterson — who signed a two-year deal to join Pittsburgh this week — believes there’s more to his game than he’s been able to show.
“I can do it all,” Peterson said Thursday. “I haven’t been in the league 13 years because I was good at one thing.”
Yes and no.
While Peterson has always believed he has the capacity to line up in different spots throughout the defensive backfield, he’s spent almost the entirety of his career as a shutdown corner, a commodity in short supply that’s made him a very rich man.
That may change in Pittsburgh, one of the reasons Peterson was drawn to joining the Steelers.
“I want to be able to be in (a) position to continue to help my team, but also be in a position that’s gonna continue to help me be successful,” said Peterson, who had five interceptions and 15 passes defensed last year for Minnesota. “It’s all about putting me in the right position with my teammates and mixing matching coverages to make it hard for opposing offenses.”
Peterson joins a secondary that is in need of veteran experience on the outside. Cam Sutton signed a free-agent deal with Detroit earlier in the week. Levi Wallace was OK in a somewhat situational role while Ahkello Witherspoon played in only four games because of an injury for a team that recovered from a slow start to finish 9-8.
Peterson, who turns 33 in July, will automatically become the elder statesman of a secondary that includes perennial Pro Bowler Minkah Fitzpatrick. It’s a role Peterson is eager to embrace. Maybe because as the oldest of five kids being a leader has come naturally.
“No one has to tell me, you know, ‘We think you should help this guy out,’” Peterson said. “What I’ve done so far in my career (is) I feel like I have so much that I can share (with) the next generation. Why would I wanna hold on to that?”
Peterson said he nearly came to Pittsburgh as a free agent last year before deciding to sign another one-year deal to remain with the Vikings. This time around, with a friendly nudge from cousin Bryant McFadden, who spent five years playing for Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, Peterson didn’t hesitate to join a team he thinks is close to re-emerging as contender.
“I wanted to be a part of this pedigree and this, this identity that the Steeler organization brings to the NFL,” Peterson said. “(They’re) always competitive. Coach Tomlin is always going to have his team, his guys, in position to win no matter what the circumstances are. For me, being in the latter part of my career, I wanted to be a part of a very storied franchise.”
Peterson is the headliner of a free agent class that includes linebackers Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts and left guard Nate Herbig. The Steelers also brought back defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi and safety Damontae Kazee.
To free up some money to get under the cap, Pittsburgh did release inside linebacker Myles Jack on Thursday. The move creates about $8 million in salary cap relief. Jack played well during his one season with the Steelers. His 104 tackles led the team, though he dealt with injuries late in the season.
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