Because it was NFL Week 1 and because the Steelers are likely to go down as just another “meh” team in 2023, what we saw and heard ahead of Week 1 won’t go down in the Hall of Fame of ill-advised trash talk. But it does deserve some sort of honorable mention, certainly as the biggest trash-talk backfire of the early season.
Steelers cornerback Patrick Peterson, speaking on the “All Things Covered” podcast with former NFL cornerback Bryant McFadden, said last week that he had spotted some, “tell signs” in the 49ers’ passing game ahead of Week 1. Peterson topped that by saying, “When I get my pick Sunday, we’ll talk about it.”
Well, well, well.
What better way for quarterback Brock Purdy to counter Peterson’s argument than to burn him twice on 49ers touchdown passes to receiver Brandon Aiyuk? All told, Aiyuk had eight catches on eight targets for 126 yards, with Peterson was the primary cover man. The 49ers racked up a 30-7 opening victory.
Purdy used his postgame press conference to ensure that anyone who had not seen the second touchdown to Aiyuk—a 19-yarder early in the second quarter—knew that it came with Peterson in coverage. He claimed to have not really noticed, but his smile and body language in his postgame presser game him away.
“I wasn’t thinking about any of that,” Purdy said. “B.A. was open, he did a great job on the route and got him the ball, scored a touchdown. The second touchdown, on the right side, the deep ball (and here Purdy smiled sideways), that one was, I was like, ‘All right, that felt good.’ It was good, he is a competitor and I have nothing but respect for Patrick Peterson.”
Vet Patrick Peterson Faced the Music
As well he should. Peterson is an eight-time Pro Bowl corner with three All-Pro selections and a gold jacket waiting for him in Canton, Ohio. But he is also 33 years old and in his 13th season, clearly not quick or spry enough to keep up with Aiyuk.
Give Peterson credit, too. Many players, after a game like that would have taken an extra-long shower or snuck out the back entrance rather than face the media But Peterson spoke at his locker after the game.
He stuck by his assertion that the 49ers do have tells in their play calls, but that he just did not make the play. And maybe he’s right—he slipped and fell on the first touchdown to Aiyuk, and he had good coverage on the second, but Purdy made an excellent back-shoulder throw and Aiyuk made a very good catch.
“It was there,” Peterson said. “I had the opportunity to get two picks I just didn’t grab it in. Credit to those guys. Those guys did a great job of sticking to their game plan, really getting to their identity, which is run the football, misdirections, hit those deep stops. That’s just what they do. We just were not in position to make those plays.”
Aiyuk: ‘I’ve Been Talking to Pat for a Little While’
As for Aiyuk, he too was smiley when asked about Peterson. Aiyuk has caught passes in games the 49ers were playing against Peterson twice before Sunday, once as a rookie in 2020 and a second time in 2021, when he had three catches for 91 yards while Peterson was playing for the Vikings.
“I’ve been talking to Pat for a little while now since we, we’ve had a couple encounters,” Aiyuk said. “So I’ve been talking to him for a while now, it’s always fun to go against him.”