Patrick Peterson is 33 years old. Under normal circumstances, based on recent precedent, the Pittsburgh Steelers would give little consideration to signing him in free agency. They have a long-held preference for signing younger, up-and-coming players rather than stars who are nearing the ends of their careers.
We now have an exception on our hands in the former perennial Pro Bowler, who turned 33 years old last month. 33 is certainly long in the tooth for the cornerback position, but the Steelers believe he can handle it. Peterson knows that he can—and that age is just a number.
“I’m done talking about my age, man, because the proof is in the pudding”, he said on All Thing Covered, the podcast that he hosts with his cousin, and former Steelers cornerback, Bryant McFadden. “I know I still can ball. I work and train entirely too hard and different”.
A former fifth-overall draft pick in 2011 out of LSU, Peterson’s 34 career interceptions are the most of all active players. He also has 111 passes defensed to his name, including five and 15 during the 2022 season with the Minnesota Vikings, statistically one of the best seasons of his career. So what is it about his training that he believes is attributable to that longitudinal success?
“I train different from everybody else across the league”, he insisted. “I train and work on things that I’m gonna use and is gonna help me in games. Ain’t doing all that fancy, unnecessary stuff, wasted movement. That’s bad habits”.
He didn’t go into specifics about his training, but it’s fair to say that it’s not the route everybody takes. Many players participate in unusual activities that they insist aid them in their efforts to play the game of football, whether it’s Lynn Swann’s ballet to Najee Harris’ yoga to Robert Spillane’s…whatever in the world he does.
That’s not to say that Peterson is the same player that he was a decade ago, or that he can play in the exact same way as he did then and have the exact same success, but the great players learn how to adjust their game as their strengths and weaknesses ebb and flow over the course of their careers.
Peterson seems to be managing that reasonably well, and certainly he should be a quality starter for the Steelers this season. But at 33 years old, the team comes into this situation understanding that the window is a narrow one for their partnership.
That’s not what matters now, though. He’s expected to sign a two-year contract, a deal of reasonable length for both parties at this time, which is likely more viewed as a pair of one-year deals on the Steelers’ part should they want to get out of it a year from now.
What matters right now is not his age but how he plays in 2023. Then we can revisit his game at 34 in 2024 and so on and so forth.