Earlier this month, the Pittsburgh Steelers started off free agency hot, signing future Hall-of-Fame cornerback Patrick Peterson to a two-year deal to strengthen the cornerback room after losing Cameron Sutton to the Detroit Lions. Today, Peterson, on his podcast with his cousin and former Steeler Bryant McFadden, explained why he believes Pittsburgh can get back to the playoffs and maybe make a run to the Super Bowl.
Despite missing the playoffs last season and not winning a playoff game since January of 2017, the goal in Pittsburgh is and always will be winning a Super Bowl. On All Things Covered Today, McFadden asked Peterson if he truly believes Pittsburgh can make a deep playoff run.
“I really do, and it starts with the head man,” Peterson said. “You know, having a great understanding of the pulse of this team, understanding what his team can do well, understanding the weakness of the team. And also understanding his quarterback situation, he’s [Mike Tomlin] not going to put his quarterback in any unfamiliar situations. He’s going to rely on his defense, rely on our running game to put us in position [to win], also our skill players to get open when their number is called. I do think we can contend right now, because the pieces are there. Now we just have to go out and trust the process, continue to lean on coach Mike T to put us in position to be successful and let everything else fall after that.”
The Steelers started last season 2-6, entering the bye week with little hope to make the playoffs. They miraculously went 7-2 down the stretch to finish the season 9-8 and come within a hair of making the playoffs. A big reason for that was taking pressure off rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett by relying on a great ground game led by Najee Harris and an elite defense.
The strategy felt eerily similar to the strategy employed by former head coach Bill Cowher in quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s first few seasons. While as of right now Pickett is not nearly as successful as Roethlisberger was, the strategy seems to be working. Once the team let Pickett take a back seat in the offense and let him cook in crunch time, the team took off.
Peterson also believes in Pickett, saying he has some “spunk” to him and that he is a big reason why Pittsburgh can make a playoff run next season.
“When Kenny Pickett came into the lineup I believe they went 6-2. It was just a different spunk, a different attitude and a different identity once he became the full-time starting quarterback. You know, when you can finish off the season hot you tend to enter that next season hot as well. So hopefully we can keep that trend going and see how far it takes us.”
While Peterson’s facts are a little off here, he is hitting on the main part after the bye. The Steelers went 6-2 with Pickett playing most of those games (he missed most of the first Baltimore Ravens game after sustaining a concussion the first series of the game and then the following game against the Carolina Panthers).
Pickett’s play improved so much down the stretch and was integral to the team almost making the playoffs as he led four game-winning drives in the final eight weeks of the season. Pickett also improved his numbers, throwing five touchdowns to only one interception in the back half of the season.
If Pickett can continue to be clutch and not turn the ball over, the Steelers have a good chance to make a playoff run. They have great coaching, a great defense, when healthy, and good pieces surrounding Pickett to take the pressure off of him. After a good free agency where general manager Omar Khan addressed the needs of the team, Pittsburgh is poised to get back to dance this season.