Steelers Rumors: Patterson, Heyward, Wilson, Peterson

Cordarrelle Patterson became one of the best return men in NFL history despite playing during an era when rule changes limited the number of kickoffs that were actually returned. Patterson, 33, recently signed a two-year contract with the Steelers, and as Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes, the club initiated a dialogue with Patterson when talks to modify the kickoff rules were gaining steam among league owners. Once those modifications — which are designed to encourage more kick returns — were formally approved, Pittsburgh acted quickly to bring Patterson aboard.

Per Dulac, Patterson’s two-year deal is worth $6MM. While the versatile four-time First-Team All-Pro may see some action in the passing game and ground game, it is clear the Steelers are primarily counting on him to reprise his role as a dominant return specialist.

Now for more news and notes out of Pittsburgh:

  • Franchise icon Cameron Heyward seemed to be contemplating retirement following a 2023 season marred by a serious groin injury, and there was even a possibility that the Steelers could seek to release him given how much cap room the club could save by doing so. As Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk relayed back in February, Heyward underwent an unspecified surgery, and the player himself wrote on X that he is “done doing stuff on [one] leg that guys were doing on [two] legs.” Heyward added that he “can’t wait to get back to myself,” and Dale Lolley of the team’s official website wrote several weeks ago that HC Mike Tomlin believes the soon-to-be 35-year-old will be fully cleared by training camp. In sum, it appears that Heyward will be back for a 14th season, $22.41MM cap charge and all.
  • Another indication that Heyward would return to the Steelers for the 2024 campaign is the fact that he was one of the strongest advocates for the team’s Russell Wilson acquisition, per Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network (video link). Both players have Walter Payton Man of the Year Award honors to their name, and Tomlin also pushed for a Wilson signing after meeting with the veteran passer. According to Pelissero, Wilson’s agent made calls around the league to see if any team — like the Steelers — that might be interested in signing his client to a one-year contract would also be willing to tack on an “unprecedented, massive player option for 2025.” Unsurprisingly, there were no takers, so after another lengthy conversation with Tomlin, Wilson signed his contract with Pittsburgh.
  • Defensive back Patrick Peterson, whom the Steelers released last month, recently said that he has had preliminary talks with a handful of teams since his release, though he does not anticipate signing a new deal before the upcoming draft. The future Hall of Fame corner struggled during his one season in Pittsburgh, and the team gave him an extended look at safety as a result. Once clubs have a better idea of their roster weaknesses post-draft, interest in Peterson could pick up, and as Lolley writes, Tomlin is open to a Steelers-Peterson reunion (though a new contract will certainly be less valuable than the two-year, $14MM accord Peterson signed with the club in 2023).
  • Before signing Wilson and trading for Justin Fields, the Steelers considered, at least to some degree, Kirk Cousins, Ryan Tannehill, and Tyler Huntley.
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