Peterson, Herbig looking forward to next step in journey

Patrick Peterson has been one of the league's best shutdown corners over the course of his previous 12 NFL seasons.

But now that the veteran signed a two-year deal to join the Steelers as a free agent on Thursday, he feels like he can be more than that.

Peterson was the fifth-overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft and was considered one of the NFL's top shutdown cornerbacks for a large portion of that career in his first 10 seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.

But he feels a move to Minnesota two years ago helped him in a big way because he was no longer asked to simply line up and play press-man coverage against the opponent's top receiver.

Peterson played man defense just 17 percent of the time last season in Minnesota and responded with 15 pass breakups and five interceptions, his most since 2012.

Because of that, he feels he can be moved around to different spots defensively.

"Going into Year 13, I always used to beg my coaches to put me in other places. I always felt like if you're able to have a quality athlete, you don't want to just limit him to one solid thing," Peterson said. "You want to make it as hard as possible on a quarterback throughout the downs. If he knows a guy is going to be lined up in a certain spot every single play, he's going to know how to avoid that guy. 

"When you have guys that have not only a special talent on covering but implementing a little blitz, implementing a little post safety or robber safety, whatever the case may be, that's going to make it harder for opposing offenses to game plan for. I don't know what the plan is just yet. But I'm definitely open for it. It's no secret. I'm not 28 any more. I'll be 33 in July. But the body feels great."

And with all of his experience, he feels putting his eyes on the quarterback can really be beneficial. It's what he credits for his ability to get his hands on so many passes in 2022.

"Early in my career, I was solely a man guy, being in the receiver's face, disrupting the timing of the receiver and the quarterback at the line of scrimmage. I can do it all," Peterson said. "I haven't been in the league for 13 years just because I was good at one thing. I was just really good at that, and that was all they wanted me to do. I can play whatever is asked of me. 

"Now, with my ball skills, think about it. I had 28 picks with my back against the quarterback. I had to have the timing to be able to get my head back around. Now, having an opportunity to back pedal and see him set up and give me a better indication when the ball is coming, nine times out of 10, I'm going to come down with it."

Herbig's Steelers connections: Offensive lineman Herbig began his career as an undrafted rookie out of Stanford with the Philadelphia Eagles.

He appeared in two games as a rookie, then stepped into the lineup in 2020, appearing in 15 games and starting 12.

Thursday, he signed a two-year deal to join the Steelers.

Steelers assistant general manager Andy Weidl was with the Eagles then, and that relationship was one that he feels piqued the Steelers' interest in him.

"Andy Weidl is the GOAT (Greatest of All-Time)," Herbig said. "He is the man. He was in Philly when I was in Philly. I had that connection coming here."

He also jumped at the chance to join the Steelers, a team he watched often when he was at Stanford.

Former Steelers star guard David DeCastro also was a Stanford product, and the team often watched the Steelers while working out.

"Great. A legend," Herbig said of DeCastro, who retired after the 2020 season. "We would watch his games on Sunday in the weight room, watch him just dominating. That's how I want to play football. I respect it. I want to be like him."

He also has connections to another former Steelers star.

A native of Hawaii, Herbig played at St. Louis High School in Honolulu. That is the same high school as Steelers defensive lineman Tyson Alualu, who's currently a free agent.

"St. Louis in Hawaii is the best football school in Hawaii," Herbig said. "Tyson Alualu was here. Same high school. A legend. We love football. We love to play the game."

If that's not enough, his younger brother, Nick, was a linebacker at Wisconsin and is eligible for the upcoming NFL Draft.

Could the Steelers add another outside linebacker from Wisconsin, the same school at which Watt played?

"I came into the building screaming it," Herbig said. "C'Mon, let's get him here. Nick Herbig. Absolute stud."

Because of his familiarity with the Steelers, Herbig feels he's a great fit in Pittsburgh.

"It's the Steelers. Come on. What isn't there about it?" he said when asked what he likes about the franchise. "I don't have enough good things to say. Guys on the team have already reached out to me. Kenny (Pickett) has already reached out to me. I'm just happy to be here, happy to be a part of this team.

"I love the game of football. I think it's an art. I think it should be played a certain way. I love to play the game."

• Dale Lolley is co-host of "SNR Drive" on Steelers Nation Radio. Subscribe to the podcast here: Apple Podcast | iHeart Podcast

What's your number?: Peterson wore No. 7 last season in Minnesota. It was the same number he wore at LSU.

Soon after word leaked that he had agreed to terms with the Steelers, he posted a photo on social media with him in a Steelers uniform wearing a No. 7 jersey.

You can imagine the backlash.

Peterson said he isn't going to wear the No. 7 that Ben Roethlisberger wore for the Steelers for 18 years before his retirement after the 2021 season.

"I don't know yet, but I know 7 is off limits," Peterson said when asked what number he'll wear. "I had an opportunity to go down and see the options available. I haven't picked one just yet. But in the near future I'll have a number."

Helping hand: One of the many reasons the Steelers were interested in bringing Peterson in – beyond simply losing Cameron Sutton in free agency – was because he offers the opportunity to add a potential future Pro Football Hall of Fame player.

In fact, Peterson said he very nearly joined the Steelers a year ago in free agency.

"We almost made something happen last year. We were having conversations with (defensive backs coach) Grady (Brown) and coach Tomlin last year," Peterson said. "We weren't able to make it happen. This go around, it was a different situation, losing a key component of their secondary in Cam. It felt like they needed a guy that had some of those same attributes, that's a smart, tough, physical football player.

"I wanted to be a part of this pedigree and identity that this Steelers organization and team brings to the NFL. They're always competitive. Coach Tomlin is always going to have his guys in a position to win no matter what the circumstances are. Me, being in the latter part of my career, I wanted to be a part of a storied franchise. What better franchise would you want to be with than the Pittsburgh Steelers?"

As a player with that much experience, Peterson also can add to the defensive backs room by imparting his knowledge of the game to the new teammates.

That's something he embraces.

"I love that role. I'm the oldest of five, so it's kind of in my nature," Peterson said. "They haven't expressed any of that to me, but that's something that comes with me. No one has to tell me, 'We think you should help this guy out.' What I've done so far in my career, I have so much I can share to the next generation.

"Why would I want to hold onto that? I want to continue seeing guys play as long as they want, accomplish the goals they set out for themselves. If there's a nugget or any advice I can give, I'm all for it."