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Can Patrick Peterson fill Cam Sutton’s shoes for the Steelers in 2023?

The Steelers are swapping out cornerbacks for 2023. Can Patrick Peterson still get the job done that the Steelers had last seson?

NFL: New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 offseason is underway. The first outside free agent move from the Steelers after the leagal tampering period began on Monday was coming to terms with cornerback Patrick Peterson. At this point of his career, can Patrick Peterson fill Cam Sutton’s shoes for the Steelersin 2023? This is the subject for this week’s Steelers Vertex.

Let’s get a quick reminder of where this nerdiness is coming from.

Vertex- a single point where two or more lines cross.

Sometimes to make a great point, it takes two different systems of analysis to come together and build off each other in order to drawl a proper conclusion. In this case, the two methods are statistical analysis and film breakdown. Enter Dave Schofield (the stat geek) and Geoffrey Benedict (the film guru) to come together to prove a single point based on our two lines of thinking.

Here comes the breakdown from two different lines of analysis.

The Stats Line:

What’s the Pittsburgh Steelers are getting in cornerback Patrick Peterson is open for debate. One of the biggest numbers when it comes to Peterson is 33 as that will be his age when he arrives in Latrobe for Steelers training camp in 2023. What Peterson has done in the past in the NFL is not of questionable value. With eight-straight Pro Bowls to start his career as well as three seasons of being First Team All-Pro, Peterson has the résumé.

One of the most impressive things with Patrick Peterson over his career is his durability. In 12 seasons, Peterson has appeared in and started 184 regular season games. Peterson went eight-straight seasons without missing a game until he missed the first six games of 2019 due to a suspension. Outside of a four-week hiatus due to a hamstring injury where he was placed on the Reserve/Injured List in 2021, Peterson has not missed a start.

For his career, Peterson has 610 tackles with 15 being for loss and four sacks. Peterson has 34 career interceptions with two being returned for touchdowns as well as 111 passes defensed. Peterson also adds another two forced fumbles and 12 fumble recoveries as he led the NFL in 2012 with five.

But in the NFL, it’s often what players have done lately. In 2022 with the Minnesota Vikings, Peterson started all 17 games and had five interceptions along with 15 passes defensed,both of which were the second most in his career. Peterson also had a career-high in tackles with 66. So even at the age of 32, Peterson had a strong 2022 season.

Comparing these numbers in 2022 to Cam Sutton, he appeared in 16 games with three interceptions and 15 passes defensed. Sutton also added 43 tackles. So when it comes to the numbers, it was only in passes defensed where the two are equal, otherwise Peterson holds the advantage. When it comes to advanced statistics, Sutton holds the edge with only a 47.9% completion percentage as he gave up 35 completions on 73 attempts and surrendered four touchdowns. As for Peterson, he had a 59.6 completion percentage with 53 completions on 89 targets and surrendered five touchdowns. It should also be noted that Peterson played 174 more snaps than Sutton on defense as he logged 1,105 defensive snaps to Sutton’s 931.

So does Patrick Peterson’s film match the numbers? Will he be an upgrade over Cam Sutton? Let’s see.

The Film Line:

Just like when the Steelers replaced Steven Nelson with the cheaper Cameron Sutton and got similar quality for less money, the Steelers now watch Cameron Sutton leave and try to replace his play with a cheaper option in Patrick Peterson.

Even if Cameron Sutton isn’t a top-tier cornerback, filling his shoes won’t be easy.

Cameron Sutton (#20) is the cornerback furthest to the top of the screen.

Cameron Sutton isn’t a physical defender, but he has become a solid tackler. He consistently does a good job tackling the catch on short routes like this.

Patrick Peterson (#7) is the cornerback to the bottom of the screen.

Peterson does a great job reading the offense and breaking on plays, but you can see he’s never been a great tackler. He’s often hesitant to help bring down runners, and that can backfire.

Patrick Peterson (#7) is the cornerback to the top of the screen.

Peterson does a good job in coverage on this play, but when it comes to helping his team bring down Jalen Hurts, he doesn’t do a very good job. His tackling isn’t a big negative, but it isn’t a strength either.

Cameron Sutton (#20) is the cornerback to the top of the screen.

One of Cameron Sutton’s best traits is his awareness and ability to switch off his route to help play the ball. It makes him a great zone defender and has shown up in plenty of key situations to the Steelers benefit.

Patrick Peterson (#7) is the cornerback to the bottom of the screen.

Peterson sticks with his man, but when the receiver goes out of bounds he moves off of him and makes an interception.

Patrick Peterson (#7) is the cornerback to the top of the screen

Here Peterson is able to stay with his man while keeping an eye on the quarterback, and when he sees the throw he jumps it for a big interception to help seal the Vikings win over the Dolphins.

Cameron Sutton (#20) is the cornerback

This play highlights Sutton’s best attribute, his hips and change of direction. A.J. Brown is a top-tier athlete, but Sutton reverses direction faster than Brown and breaks up the pass.

Patrick Peterson (#7) is the cornerback to the bottom of the screen.

Peterson’s tape doesn’t show the same level of change of direction Sutton’s does, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still make plays. Peterson has incredible reach with his arms, and that length can cover for a bit slower break on the ball compared to Sutton.

Patrick Peterson is #7.

Peterson got to a ton of passes last season with 15 passes defended, and you can see how his speed and reach give him a large threat radius the quarterback has to avoid.

The Point:

Patrick Peterson has the intelligence, experience and physical ability to fill all the roles Cameron Sutton filled in 2022 at a comparable level of play. I would go farther and say with the Steelers looking to play more man coverage that Patrick Peterson, even at his age, is a better man cover corner than Cameron Sutton.

In fact, I think the best way I can describe Peterson’s 2022 film is that Peterson played like Steeler fans hoped Akhello Witherspoon would following his short stretch of phenomenal play in late 2021. Peterson has a very similar skill set to Witherspoon, but is much more consistent.

He might not be a star anymore, but in his 2021 and 2022 film, Peterson was able to cover top tier wide receivers and limit their impact with little help.