In an offseason that continues to remain rather busy as GM Omar Khan and assistant GM Andy Weidl tinker with the roster, two signings stand out above the rest in positive and negative ways, at least as Pro Football Focus sees it.
According to PFF’s Brad Spielberger, who penned a piece highlighting his favorite and least-favorite signings for all 32 teams this offseason, the Steelers’ signings of guard Isaac Seumalo and cornerback Patrick Peterson earned those distinctions Friday. Seumalo was the signing Spielberger liked most, and Peterson was the signing he liked least.
Seumalo, a standout starter for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2022 on their run to a Super Bowl appearance, signed a three-year, $24 million deal in free agency with the Steelers. Peterson, who is coming off of his best season since 2018, signed a two-year, $14 million deal just hours after the Steelers lost cornerback Cameron Sutton to the Detroit Lions in free agency.
Seumalo slots in as the starting left guard on an improving Steelers offensive line, while Peterson profiles as the new top cornerback in Pittsburgh that will also handle a mentorship role as Pittsburgh continues to revamp that position group.
“Seumalo was the top guard available on our free agent board, and while his age and injury history may have limited his market a bit, Pittsburgh still did very well here. Seumalo earned a career-high 75.2 overall grade and his third straight 77.0-plus pass-blocking grade in 2022,” Spielberger writes highlighting the signing of Seumalo as his favorite move by the Steelers this offseason. “Notably, this career year was Seumalo’s first starting on the right side after years of predominantly excelling as a left guard, which goes to show his versatility and talent.
“The Steelers now have five solid players who are capable of playing multiple guard spots and have experience at center, so they have extreme flexibility and injury insurance along the interior going forward. Ultimately, Seumalo’s price may have just been too good to pass up, and it’s smart of teams to still make these investments, even if one could argue they are ‘set’ at a position group.”
The Steelers certainly did well getting a guard of Seumalo’s caliber for relatively cheap in free agency, shoring up the interior of the offensive line even further next to center Mason Cole and opposite guard James Daniels, who were two anchors for the Steelers’ rebuilt offensive line last season.
Signing Seumalo made all the sense in the world. Weidl knows Seumalo quite well, having played a key role in drafting him out of Oregon State in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft, and then watched him develop into a starting guard. Seumalo played 81 career games for the Eagles and another nine games in the playoffs.
Getting that type of player and slotting him in as a starter on the left side will do wonders for Pittsburgh moving forward as left guard with Kevin Dotson was a bit of a weakness in 2022.
As for Peterson, the Steelers pivoted quickly after losing Sutton to the Detroit Lions, but the fit of Peterson scheme-wise is a curious one. Peterson played 76% zone coverage in 2022 with the Minnesota Vikings but is joining a man-heavy scheme in Pittsburgh, which played the fifth-most man-coverage snaps in the NFL last season.
“Pittsburgh signed Peterson to a two-year, $14 million deal in free agency to help fill the void left behind by Sutton, but that will be easier said than done for a player who seemed to benefit from a lot of off-zone coverage in Minnesota. There have even been discussions about him potentially moving to safety at some point,” Spielberger writes regarding the Steelers’ signing of Peterson. “The departing Cameron Sutton earned a career-best 72.2 grade in 2022, allowing just 0.76 yards per coverage snap, which ranked 11th among cornerbacks with at least 200 coverage snaps on the season. After a strong free agency period for Pittsburgh elsewhere along the roster, particularly along the offensive line and in the front seven, cornerback remains the Steelers’ top need by a solid margin.”
Even with the signing of Peterson, the position remains a top need for the Steelers. That’s no secret.
Good news is the 2023 NFL Draft is very deep at the cornerback position, so the Steelers will be able to address that need and do it early in the draft should they choose to. On paper, the addition of Peterson is a bit concerning due to scheme overall, but Peterson remains a high-football IQ guy with great instincts and ball skills.
The Steelers will have a plan for him and will move him around searching for advantageous matchups. He’ll be a great fit in the locker room and with the position group, stepping in as the leader.