Releasing Patrick Peterson was a necessary move for Steelers ahead of free agency

The decision to release Peterson was a tough but necessary move by the front office.

Sep 24, 2023; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Patrick Peterson (20) celebrates
Sep 24, 2023; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Patrick Peterson (20) celebrates / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers just did something we don't see them do very often: they put a business decision ahead of a PR move. On March 8th, just three days ahead of the NFL's legal tampering period, ESPN's Adam Schefter announced that the Steelers have released Patrick Peterson.

Though he was only in Pittsburgh for one season, Peterson was a veteran leader who did whatever the Steelers asked him to do on defense, including playing both boundary cornerback spots as well as slot cornerback and safety.

Peterson has earned quite the resume in the NFL since entering the league in 2011. This included eight straight Pro Bowl appearances to begin his career as well as three First-Team All-Pro honors.

Thankfully, the Steelers were able to separate Peterson's reputation and past achievements from the player that they saw in Pittsburgh in 2023. In the past, they have had a hard time biting the bullet and moving on from players who were former high draft picks or those who Mike Tomlin really liked entering the NFL.

The decision to release Peterson creates another gaping hole in the secondary that must be filled, but it was a necessary step in the right direction ahead of free agency.

Steelers were wise to release Patrick Peterson

I questioned the Patrick Peterson signing the moment it happened last offseason. Studies on cornerback shelf life prove that most CBs -- regardless of their status -- witness a significant decline in their early 30s, and Peterson was already operating on borrowed time.

The decision to release Peterson was the right move. Entering his 14th NFL season in 2024, Peterson would have had a significant cap number of $9,775,000 for the upcoming season, per Over the Cap. This is a number that the Steelers may have been able to stomach if his performance was better during the 2023 season.

Instead, Peterson earned just a 58.9 overall grade from Pro Football Focus in 2023 -- good for 86th among 127 qualifying cornerbacks. The Steelers experimented with moving him all over the secondary, but that didn't go according to plan. The veteran took over 200 snaps from both the slot CB position and the safety position last year, but his play was still below average.

Things got better later in the year, but it would have been impossible to justify the cost of keeping him around for another season. Now Peterson is 34 years old and at the tail end of his career.

By releasing the veteran cornerback, the Steelers instantly save $6,850,000 that can be used to pay a younger, fresher cornerback in free agency. Pittsburgh does take a dead cap hit of $2,925,000 with this move. After roster displacement, Pittsburgh won't net much savings here, but they were in desperate need of an upgrade.

For those hoping that Peterson would stick around to play safety in 2024, I would urge you to look at the plethora of options floating around in free agency. The Steelers can sign a younger, more athletic safety and save money in the process.

No matter how you slice it, it just didn't make sense for the Pittsburgh Steelers to keep Patrick Peterson in the final year of his deal. I know that parting with a veteran leader like Peterson isn't easy for Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan, but I have no doubt that they made a great business decision with this move.