If you are prudent with your finances, you more than likely look for a good deal trying to save some of that hard earned money. Most individuals don't have a unlimited income, and neither do the Pittsburgh Steelers, thanks to a hard salary cap the league imposed to create as close to a level playing field as possible. Therefore every franchise is looking for hidden value wherever they can find it. Sometimes the name brand cost more, but the store brand tastes or works just as well, at a substantially lower price.
There have already been a few high priced free agent targets rumored as possible targets for the Steelers. Makes sense, considering how the Steelers have a good amount of salary cap money to spend, plus an abnormally large number of needs up and down the roster. The Steelers may just pull the trigger on a upper tier guy or two, but that really has never been their style. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the Steelers may just be trying to catch up with the times.
If the Steelers do make a splash signing, I would expect it to be a offensive lineman and/or a cornerback. Problem is the Steelers have more needs than they have both draft capital and cap space. There are still salary cap casualties expected that will free up more funds, but also add to the already daunting list of needs. That makes the overlooked, and often undervalued, players available in free agency even more appealing. In my humble opinion, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson is an example of just such a value.
Cordarrelle Patterson is as versatile a player that you can find in the modern NFL. He has impressive size and athleticism, and the maturity and leadership one would expect from a 30 year old, 9-year NFL veteran. He has played for 5 franchises in his professional career, with varying degrees of success. The one constant in his game has been his kick return abilities, and he is one of the all-time great returners. He shares the NFL record of 8 total kick-off return touchdowns, and has been named to 4 Pro Bowls, 4 first team All-Pro selections, and 3 second team All-Pro teams. All accolades earned as a kick returner.
As his ridiculous return numbers would suggest, it is always a good idea to get the ball in his hands whenever possible. He has the speed, power, and contact balance to take the ball the distance anytime he gets his hands on the football. After beginning his NFL career predominantly as a receiver, he has slowly morphed into a WR/RB hybrid. It makes sense when you consider his elusiveness and open field running abilities. He mainly focused on the occasional reverse or end around in the early portion of his career, but he has seen an increase in carries out of the backfield in recent seasons.
I was asked a question on a Steelers Hangover podcast a couple weeks ago by a faithful listener. They wanted to know my opinion on whether JuJu Smith-Schuster was capable of playing a similar role as playoff breakout star Deebo Samuel plays in the San Francisco 49ers offense, if the Steelers are able to re-sign him. I tried to explain how Smith-Schuster is a strong and determined runner after the catch, but he lacks the top end speed and contact balance which makes Samuel the unique talent he has become. Cordarrelle Patterson does have those attributes, and showcased them for the Atlanta Falcons in 2021.
I am not suggesting Patterson's abilities are on par with Deebo Samuel, who happens to be the most unique elite receiver in the league. Patterson will never be an exceptional receiver or running back, but his value resides in the fact he can perform at both positions at a high level. He doesn't have to be a starter to be effective, as he has performed admirably out of a reserve role for the majority of his career. He has proven willing and able when called upon.
Patterson is regarded as a strong teammate and impactful in the community. He could provide a veteran presence in the Steelers extremely young wide receiver meeting room, having 9 years of NFL experience with multiple franchises to share. The Steelers wide receiver crew could potentially get even younger if the Steelers select a receiver with deep speed in the middle rounds, as many are expecting during the 2022 NFL Draft.
He could potentially fill the WR3 and the RB3 roles for the Steelers, plus take over kick return duties. This would allow the Steelers to keep an additional player or two at positions of greater need, a desirable situation when rebuilding a roster. Patterson's elite versatility, strong character, and experience makes him an exceptional value, in my opinion, and someone the Steelers should focus on in free agency.