5 Steelers players who can't afford to regress in 2023

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens (14)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens (14) / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
3 of 5

Steelers are banking on Patrick Peterson not regressing

Despite not having played a single down for the Steelers yet, the team is seemingly banking on Patrick Peterson not taking some steps back. Cornerback is a notoriously hard position to play as you get older since speed and athleticism are huge elements of the position, and Peterson is no spring chicken. He will be 33 this season, and father time is undefeated in the NFL.

Peterson will also be seeing some athletic marvels at the position this year. The Bengals boast one of the best-receiving cores in the league, and the Steelers will have to match up against them twice. While not a dynamic group, the Ravens have a lot of speed at the position. The Browns, meanwhile, have also upgraded the room and feature some genuine threats at the position.

Banking on an aging Peterson is dangerous. Sure, the ideal scenario is that Joey Porter becomes the defacto top guy, but that likely won’t be early on this season. Cornerbacks usually take a few weeks to get their pro game working for them, and Porter may not be ready to be the top guy at all as a rookie.

Running Peterson out as a top cornerback at his age is already a risk. That hasn’t stopped the Steelers from also seemingly trying to have him replace Cameron Sutton this offseason. Sutton would work as an outside cornerback and move inside to the slot when the position was needed. Peterson is seemingly expected to do the same thing despite having never worked out of the slot for most of his career.

If Peterson is still the same good cornerback that he was last year, this move won’t be horrible. Peterson can maintain a high level of play while also working on his ability as a slot defender. If age begins to catch up to him, the Steelers and the secondary will be in trouble, as they have some options to be that top guy, but it will take some time before they are ready.