3 former Steelers starters who might be done in the NFL

Green Bay Packers v Pittsburgh Steelers
Green Bay Packers v Pittsburgh Steelers / Perry Knotts/GettyImages

At some point, past draft status and production no longer matter in the NFL. One way or another, the time will come when a prominent player can't find a team willing to sign them and they will be forced to retire. We could see this scenario play out with a handful of players who were on the Steelers' roster in 2023.

Some former Steelers signed with new teams in free agency. Players like Chukwuma Okorafor, Armon Watts, and Mason Rudolph still have youth on their side, and not every departing player is guaranteed to stick around with their new team.

For three former Steelers who were once prominent NFL players, this could be the end of the road. Here are three former Steelers who might be done in the NFL.

Patrick Peterson, CB

From the time he entered the NFL in 2011 until 2018, Patrick Peterson was named to the Pro Bowl every single year and earned First-Team All-Pro honors three times. But those days are long gone.

Over the past five seasons, Peterson fell short of earning individual accolades on the Cardinals, Vikings, and Steelers. Last year in Pittsburgh, the former 5th overall pick struggled routinely in man coverage, and he showed his age.

Coming off a down season, Peterson is a 34-year-old cornerback. Pittsburgh already tried him at slot cornerback and safety, but he doesn't have the juice left in his legs to be a difference-making player in the secondary at this stage of his career.

Peterson doesn't play special teams and he's not signing with a team to ride the bench. Unless some team gets desperate for cornerback help or a veteran presence in the room, Patrick Peterson might have already played his last game in the NFL.

Keanu Neal, S

Keanu Neal was just 28 years old during his 2023 season as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers last year, but he played like a much older player. Before landing on IR with a season-ending injury, Neal started at strong safety.

Unfortunately, things didn't go very well. Though Neal was a quality run defender in the box, he struggled to stay with quicker pass-catchers in coverage and he didn't offer much to the defense.

Neal was a former first-round pick in 2016 who made the Pro Bowl in his second NFL season, but he's been a journeyman since 2021 -- making one-year stops in Dallas, Tampa Bay, and Pittsburgh. Neal is only a year older than Minkah Fitzpatrick, but he only possessed 4.62 speed coming into the league and he certainly hasn't gotten faster. His NFL career could be done.

Kwon Alexander, LB

Kwon Alexander wasn't a full-time starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers, as the veteran linebacker worked in a rotation with Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts before suffering a season-ending Achilles injury.

As someone who is recovering from a ruptured Achilles, I can imagine how hard it would be to get back into football shape for a nearly 30-year-old player -- especially at a position like linebacker.

Alexander made the Pro Bowl with Keanu Neal and Patrick Peterson back in 2017, but he has since suffered multiple season-ending injuries. With all the wear and tear on his body and the fact that he is still rehabbing from his Achilles injury, Alexander might be done in the NFL.