Heading into his age-33 season, Scouts Inc. described the veteran cornerback in the following way:
“He has lost a step over the past couple of seasons but still possesses great hips, agility and quickness to be effective in both man and zone coverages.”
That's referring to new Steelers cornerback Patrick Peterson, right?
That pre-season blurb came in advance of the 2009 Green Bay Packers season and was describing none other than future Hall-of-Fame cornerback Charles Woodson.
All Woodson did that year was start all 16 games, pick off a career-high nine interceptions (returning three for touchdowns) and break up 18 passes on way to earning AP Defensive Player-of-the-Year honors.
Can Patrick Peterson follow Charles Woodson's path to become the NFL's DPOY?
“That was like his first year where they really started moving him around (in the secondary),” Peterson said of Woodson's age 33 season earlier this summer on his All Things Covered podcast with former Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden. “I visualize the same thing. I love speaking things into existence…I see that for myself, and I can’t wait for it to come to fruition.”
During mini-camp and OTA’s, Peterson said he worked a lot on new positions and is starting to feel comfortable with his new team and role. Since the Steelers began Training Camp he's been spotted playing outside corner, slot corner, and even safety.
"“They plan on using me like they used Cam Sutton. I plan on making a lot of plays this year. I’m a certified DAWG. People (need to) stop talking about my age. Age isn’t a factor. I don’t want to hear nothing about my age anymore, or that I’m losing a step. Just enjoy what I’m putting on tape every Sunday.”"- Patrick Peterson "All Things Covered"
What Peterson put on tape every Sunday last season, his finale in Minnesota after two years with the Vikings, was an ability to still get it done at a high level.
The three-time All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowl selection started all 17 games and produced the second-most interceptions (five) and passes defended (15) in his 12-year career.
In fact, since Peterson entered the NFL in 2011, he's one of only five players to collect at least five interceptions and 15 passes defended in a season TWICE in that span. The others are Richard Sherman, Casey Heyward, Marcus Peters, and Xavien Howard.
All statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
A total of 34 players have had at least one season with five or more interceptions AND 15 or more pass break-ups since 2011. But Peterson is in elite company when it comes to doing that at such an advanced age for a DB.
The only player to join the list who was older than Peterson? None other than Woodson, who was 35 when he had seven picks and 17 passes defended for Green Bay during Peterson's rookie season of 2011.
Despite his terrific 2022 season, “Pat Pete" was snubbed for another Pro Bowl spot, and continues to hear that he’s on the downside of his career from the media.
For example, according to McFadden, PFF had him ranked as the 31st-best cornerback in the NFL heading into the 2023 season.
And Peterson’s signing with the Steelers early on in the free agency period barely created a ripple from a national perspective.
“I don’t know what else I can do…I practically won five games for us (last year) in Minnesota,” Peterson said. “Still going strong. Ain’t got no signs of slowing down. I can’t wait to show the world that I can still play man. Now I’m back in the man scheme…they’re going to get what they’ve been waiting for…period. I am different…that’s what people are failing to realize. I’ve been HIM (my entire career).”
Peterson enters his 13th NFL season with 184 games played, starting all of them between his time with the Arizona Cardinals and Vikings. He has 34 career interceptions, 111 passes defended, and over 600 total tackles.
Those numbers are as good or better than the likes of Hall of Fame selection Darrelle Revis, Aqib Talib, and even fellow 33-year-old Stephon Gilmore. They also put Peterson in line with catching both Charles Woodson and former Steeler Rod Woodson if he’s able to play a few more seasons.
Charles Woodson played until he was 39, earning four Pro Bowl nods and five All-Pro selections over his final seven seasons with Green Bay and Oakland. He moved to full-time safety at age 36 and finished his career with nine Pro Bowls and seven All-Pro selections.
Rod Woodson played his first decade with the Steelers (1987-96) before playing four years in Baltimore, two years in Oakland, and one year in San Francisco in a Hall of Fame career. He moved to safety full-time at age 34, earned four more Pro Bowl selections, and retired at 38 with a total of 11 Pro Bowl nods and 7 All-Pro awards.
So, maybe another change of scenery in the back half of Peterson’s career, as well as a possible change of positions, will be the catalyst for a career extension.
If nothing else, Peterson’s signing with the Steelers ranks as one of the most underrated off-season moves in the NFL based on his pedigree. His high-performing past experiences and his desire to coach up others on the team — like rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr. — should pay immediate dividends.
"You have that same feel that you had when we were able to acquire Joe Haden," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin recenlty told Peter King of NBC Sports. "(He's) just a known commodity, a solid player and guy, not only in play but in life. He'll be a great mentor to (our) young corners."
And who knows…it's not likely, but if anyone other than Charles Woodson can win Defensive Player of the Year at age 33, it’s HIM — the Steelers’ very own "Pat Pete".
"I love that they brought in Patrick Peterson," Haden said recently on "The Herd". "We can't forget about him. I think Pat is going to be a crafty, crafty vet back there."