The Pittsburgh Steelers knew what they were getting as much outside the lines as inside them when they picked up veteran cornerback Joe Haden. At that time a former Pro Bowl cornerback who had dealt with some recent injury issues, his reputation as a quality person and a leader in the locker room preceded him. He fulfilled every expectation and more when he arrived in Pittsburgh.
Head coach Mike Tomlin expects to get a similar profile out of his latest high-profile acquisition at the cornerback position this offseason. After losing out on retaining Cameron Sutton in free agency, they signed Patrick Peterson, who himself said he was talking to the Steelers a year earlier about signing.
“We had the benefits of a guy like Joe Haden with a similar resume and love and passion for the game”, Tomlin reminded reporters recently at the annual league meetings, via Dale Lolley for the team’s website.
“So Pat P obviously, is a guy that brings something beyond his resume and playmaking capabilities, which is an asset to football teams, when guys can be living examples of what to do, how to go about this professional football business. I just think we all benefit from that. He is that”.
Of course, Haden was 28 years old when they signed him in 2017 after playing seven seasons for the Cleveland Browns. Peterson, A Pro Bowler many times over, has 12 years served in the league, including 10 with the Arizona Cardinals. He will be 33 years old by the time the regular season starts.
And he hasn’t shy about acknowledging that he is no longer the same athlete he once was who ran a sub-4-4 40-yard dash (speed that Haden never had, frankly). But he’s also been open about his evidently sincere desire to move around the field—not just switching sides, but playing different roles, whereas Haden was only willing to play outside cornerback.
Peterson is coming off of what was statistically one of his better seasons, recording 15 passes defensed of which five were interceptions. Both marks represent the second-highest totals he’s had in a single season throughout his career.
The Steelers brought him in on a two-year, $14 million contract that was worked out in principle on the first day of free agency. Peterson announced his intentions to sign with Pittsburgh himself, days before the deal was actually signed, which came only hours after Sutton was reported to have agreed to sign with the Detroit Lions on a three-year, $33 million offer.
Of course, signing a 33-year-old cornerback even under the best circumstances is a temporary fix. There are few positions in the game of football where even an elite player can reliably be projected to play at a high level deep into his 30s. The cornerback position is not one of them. Which is why so many mock drafts have the Steelers taking Joey Porter Jr. out of Penn State with their 17th-overall pick in the first round later this month.