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Mark Madden: Steelers won’t get Patrick Peterson and probably shouldn’t anyway

November 10, 2018

Unless owner Art Rooney II ditches a management philosophy that dates to his late father, Dan, spearheading the franchise’s transition from joke to champion in the ’70s, the Steelers will not get All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson from Arizona.

Acquiring Peterson would cost the Steelers a first-round pick and likely a second-round choice on top of that.

The Steelers have not been without a first-round pick since 1967. Building through the draft is one of the team’s cornerstones. Making splashy trades is not.

Dealing for Peterson is likely not even being considered by the Steelers.

But should it be? Is paying a big price to get Peterson a good idea?

Antonio Brown and Ramon Foster think so. Yinzer Nation thinks so.

I’m not so sure.

The Steelers should stick to their established policy of keeping their first-round pick. That’s part of an overall process that arguably has made the Steelers the NFL’s most successful team since Dan Rooney took control. Going against the grain could cause a negative trickledown within the context of the Steelers’ big picture. (Disclaimer: Maybe Art Rooney II wants to do something his dad wouldn’t.)

Peterson is due $40 million from this year through 2020. The Steelers wouldn’t give Le’Veon Bell what he wants. Wouldn’t they flinch at paying Peterson? (Disclaimer: Cornerback is a more important position than running back.)

Paying Peterson huge cash is one thing. Giving up a first- and second-round pick to get him is another. Doing both makes the total price too onerous.

Peterson is a great corner. He would help the Steelers defense a lot. He would facilitate more/better man-to-man coverage and blitzing. He would take Artie Burns off the Gotham Steel Low-Fat Grill and put him on the bench.

But would Peterson’s presence offer any guarantee beyond winning the AFC North? The Steelers are poised to do that without Peterson. (Disclaimer: As constructed, the defense never could beat a top quarterback like Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes or Philip Rivers. With Peterson, it would have a chance. OK, not against Brady.)

The Steelers don’t think like other teams and certainly not like fans.

The Steelers don’t believe in championship windows. They don’t believe in maximizing a perceived short-term opportunity, like the end of Ben Roethlisberger’s career. They want to make the playoffs every year. Steady and consistent.

Odd as it sounds, the Steelers’ thinking won’t change when Roethlisberger retires. They won’t rebuild, per se. They will operate exactly the same.

It works. Lack of exceptions to their rules can frustrate. But how can anyone argue against the Steelers’ track record?

Don’t point at the Steelers’ recent first-round draft picks by way of arguing to trade for Peterson.

Sure, Jarvis Jones was a bust. Burns and Bud Dupree might be.

But, this decade alone, the Steelers have drafted Maurkice Pouncey, Cam Heyward, David DeCastro, Ryan Shazier and T.J. Watt in the first round. That’s with no choice higher than 15th overall.

In 1964, the Steelers traded their first-round pick in 1965 to Chicago for second- and fourth-round selections in ’64. That first-round pick turned out to be third overall. The Bears took Dick Butkus. They got Gale Sayers with the next choice.

Sometimes a first-round pick is a bust. Sometimes he’s a Hall-of-Famer.

The discussion could be moot: Arizona said Peterson will not be traded. The Cardinals and Steelers reportedly haven’t even talked.

But I’m not sure the Steelers getting Peterson would be the panacea many expect. There could be cap issues if Le’Veon Bell reports. (Yawn.) It provides for lively debate, so much so that I did a decent job parenthetically arguing against my own points in today’s column.

But the Steelers won’t be getting Peterson.

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