The Pittsburgh Steelers will likely have two former All-Pros manning both safety spots in 2023. While he spent the first 12 years of his career playing cornerback, Patrick Peterson may make the switch to safety during his first season with the Steelers, coach Mike Tomlin told reporters during the Annual League Meeting.
Tomlin said that he has already discussed the matter with Peterson, an eight-time Pro Bowler who signed a two-year deal with the Steelers earlier this month.
"He's versatile, not only in terms of his talents but his intellect," Tomlin said of Peterson, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "We're not going to be bashful about moving him around. He's excited about the prospects."
Should he move to safety, Peterson wouldn't be the only Steelers defender changing positions. Peterson would likely move to free safety, which would allow three-time Pro Bowler Minkah Fitzpatrick to move to strong safety, where he can have a bigger impact on the defense.
Fitzpatrick has already shown that he is more than willing to switch roles. He was a big-play machine during his first two years with the Steelers, as he intercepted nine passes, forced two fumbles, recovered three more and scored three defensive touchdowns. Fitzpatrick's ball-magnet ability helped him earn consecutive All-Pro honors.
In 2021, Fitzpatrick's impact was felt in an entirely different way. With Pittsburgh's defensive line barraged by injuries, Fitzpatrick focused more on being a run-stopper than a ballhawking playmaker. He was often tasked with preventing moderate from turning into big gains. While his turnover production went down as a result, Fitzpatrick led the Steelers with 124 tackles, a career high. He also still came down with two interceptions along with a forced fumble and a recovered fumble.
"I'm going to go out there and do whatever Coach T asks me to do and whatever the team needs me to do in order to win," Fitzpatrick told CBS Sports last summer. "Last year, it was making a lot of tackles, and the year before that, it was getting a lot of turnovers. Whatever this year brings, this year brings."
The 2022 season saw Fitzpatrick return more to his playmaking role. Despite missing two games, Fitzpatrick tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions. He also scored his fifth career touchdown while helping Pittsburgh finish the season with a winning record after a 2-6 start.
While Peterson would fill a void at safety, him moving would create a new need at cornerback. There's a good chance the Steelers would fill that need with their first-round pick. It will likely depend on whether or not top prospects Joey Porter Jr. and Brian Branch are still available when the Steelers are on the clock with the 17th overall pick.
In a twist of irony, Peterson would be falling in a legendary Steelers footsteps should he make the move from corner to safety. Rod Woodson, one of the best cornerbacks in NFL history, made the move to safety late in his career while playing for the Ravens. Woodson twice led the NFL interceptions while playing safety. He also played an integral role in Baltimore's Super Bowl win in 2000.
Peterson would surely like to have similar success, both individually and team-wise, should be change positions at this stage of his career.