Marcus Peters is tough. He's aggressive. He plays the game with the kind of edge you want to see from the one position on the field where a player can go from hero to dog in one play.
Is his reckless abandon on the field something he can contain off it as well?
There's no questioning his talent. At 6-foot-0, Peters is on the taller side, and his long arms help bolster outstanding mirroring skills. It's difficult to get passes over him, and he smoothly redirects and accelerates.
The Steelers play their cornerbacks off the line, emphasizing a fluid back pedal and an aggressive charge at passes in front of them ("Tackle the Catch," as Coach LeBeau preached). Peters played both off and on the line of scrimmage in his time at the University of Washington. He's aware of the down and distance, and he's starting far off the ball and behind the first down marker because the snap is coming from the wide side. Any "short" throw here is actually very long. It would take a massive arm to complete a two or three yard hitch before Peters got to the receiver.
At the snap, he recognizes the route coming, takes a solid step forward and shuffles inside. He doesn't waste his momentum by taking a second step forward, or closing himself off by putting his left (inside) foot forward. Because he shuffles with his inside foot instead, his shoulders are square to the receiver in the route he's running. That also allows him to explode off his back foot toward the receiver. In three quick, fluid steps, he's in perfect position to drive on the ball and break up the pass, but he's perfectly balanced the entire time.
Short yardage, he's aggressive, he wants the ball, and he wants to own the space he's defending. He's a short-space fighter. Peters is locked in on the receiver at the snap, and it's clear he recognizes the route very quickly. He drives his hands into the receiver's chest, which ensures even if the receiver is able to get his hips around and get his body turned toward the ball, Peters will still have a chance to knock the ball out of the receiver's hands.
It takes strength to drive a receiver like this. After getting his hands inside the receiver, watch how he drops them down. He does this while angling his body inside, which gives him the inside lane. That's where the ball should be, and that's what Peters is defending.
The receiver wants to drive into Peters and get his body around to the ball, but Peters' jam is strong enough the receiver really doesn't have the forward momentum to get his shoulders around.
Herein lies the concern with Peters. He's an emotional player, which is good, but he pushes the envelope in terms of his physicality. In this high-scoring game against FCS Eastern Washington, Peters battled hard in press coverage, and displayed a level of strength that suggests he can re-direct receivers and gain an advantage in his five-yard space. He did it on this play, but he continued jawing with the receiver to the point where he draws a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. This came after a sack on third down in the second half of a competitive game.
He was dismissed from the team in November after allegations of a physical confrontation with a coach. Initial reports suggested he actually choked the coach, but coaches later denied the rumors.
Getting in a verbal spat with a coach isn't exactly rare, and players are not usually thrown off the team for such a thing - certainly not All-America level players midway through the season. Whatever it is that happened, Peters won't need to sell his skills very much to NFL scouts. He will have to own up to his part of the reason he was dismissed.
If he's able to convince teams of that, it seems likely he'll be long gone by the time the Steelers pick at 22. If he's on the fence with his answers, he may be available when the Steelers go on the clock, but one would have to wonder, at that point, why he's still there.
Expect his stock to rise and fall as the Combine draws near, but good interviews there will likely push him into the top 15 range.