Steelers Veteran Defensive Starter Named 2024 Cut Candidate

Patrick Peterson

Getty Bleacher Report's NFL scouting department named cornerback Patrick Peterson a cut candidate for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The offseason has officially begun for the Pittsburgh Steelers. That means NFL analysts are already looking ahead at what the team’s roster could look like for the 2024 season.

From a salary cap perspective, things are not very promising for the Steelers. Spotrac projected Pittsburgh to be more than $6 million over the projected 2024 salary cap.

The Steelers will have no choice but to release players to get under the cap. In a perfect world, the team will open enough cap space to sign significant free agents too.

With that in mind, Bleacher Report’s NFL scouting department argued that veteran starting cornerback Patrick Peterson is a cut candidate for the Steelers.

“The unfortunate reality is that it’s going to be hard for Peterson to live up to his contract at 34 years old next season,” the BR staff wrote.

“The Steelers could save $6.9 million by moving on from him. With Joey Porter Jr. ready to hold down at least one cornerback spot and Peterson showing some signs of aging, they can likely find a similar option without investing as much money.”

Peterson signed a 2-year, $14 million contract last offseason. He had just a $4.225 million cap hit in 2023, but it jumps to $9.775 million for 2024.

Patrick Peterson Experienced an Inconsistent First Season With Steelers

The 3-time All-Pro arrived in Pittsburgh as a short-term solution to replace the departed Cameron Sutton. But the 33-year-old went through a very up-and-down 2024 campaign with the Steelers.

According to the Pro Football Focus player grades, Peterson was adequate early in the season. But then from Weeks 4-9, he posted a player grade below 57 (out of 100) every week.

In Week 9 against the Tennessee Titans, the Steelers began deploying rookie Joey Porter Jr. on the opposing team’s best wide receiver. After that switch, Peterson began posting better PFF player grades again.

But at the end of the season, Peterson switched to safety out of necessity. At best, the results were mixed. While playing safety, the 33-year-old struggled in coverage and run defense.

Peterson suggested in late December that his switch to safety could be a permanent move to extend his career. That might not be the worst decision for the 3-time All-Pro, but the question for the Steelers is whether they saw enough promise from the 13-year veteran at safety to keep him despite his near $10 million cap hit.

Steelers Secondary Needs Entering Offseason

The good news for the Steelers is Porter is a piece to build around in the secondary. Hopefully, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick bounces back after a rocky 2023.

The other parts of the secondary are very much in question.

Peterson could return to start at either cornerback opposite Porter or at safety next to Fitzpatrick. Keeping Peterson as insurance at cornerback would make sense given that fellow Steelers cornerbacks Levi Wallace, James Pierre, Chandon Sullivan and Elijah Riley are all free agents.

But again, will the Steelers be able to afford an insurance player for almost $10 million?

The Steelers could cut Peterson and save $6.85 million against the cap. Theoretically, that money could then go toward an upgrade at cornerback or safety.

In 17 games this season, Peterson had 42 combined tackles, 11 pass defenses and 2 interceptions. He played 97% of Pittsburgh defensive snaps during the 2023 regular season.

Peterson also made 4 tackles in the playoff loss against the Buffalo Bills.

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