Sources – Steelers will sign former Falcons RB Cordarrelle Patterson

ORLANDO, Fla. — Hours after the NFL adopted a new kickoff rule, the Pittsburgh Steelers have agreed to a two-year, $6 million contract with versatile return man Cordarrelle Patterson, league sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

After a historically low rate of kickoff returns in the 2023 season, the revised rules are expected to emphasize a return game, making Patterson's role crucial.

Patterson, who played under Steelers offensive coordinator Arthur Smith with the Atlanta Falcons, has nine career kick returns since entering the NFL in 2013 to make him the NFL's all-time leader in that category. He has three times as many kicking touchdowns as any other player in that time period, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The Steelers last scored a touchdown on a punt return when JuJu Smith-Schuster took it 96 yards into the end zone against the Cleveland Browns in 2017. The team has struggled to find a consistent return man, using a group of players in the 2023 season. That included adding the former coaching staff Godwin Igwebuike and running back Anthony McFarland.

Patterson saw a reduced role with the Falcons in 2023, due in part to additional personnel and previous changes the NFL made to the kickoff rule, which made touchbacks more prevalent. He posted career lows in returns (7), return yardage (153) and yards per return (21.9) last season.

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On offense, where he found the biggest opportunities of his career starting at age 30, he had 50 carries for 181 yards — his lowest total since 2019 — and nine catches for 38 yards and a touchdown, his worst numbers since 2015, his third year in the league.

Patterson, 33, became a running back/receiver hybrid with the Falcons, often lining up all over Smith's offensive formations, producing a career-best season with 1,166 yards from scrimmage (618 yards rushing, 548 yards receiving) in 2020.

He was selected 29th overall in the 2013 draft by the Minnesota Vikings. Since then, he has played in 170 games (60 starts) and has 514 carries for 2,511 yards and 22 touchdowns along with 298 catches for 2,795 yards and 16 touchdowns. He plays for the Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, and Oakland Raiders.

In addition to his record, Patterson is No. 17 all-time in kick return attempts (273), ninth in yardage (7,989) and third in kick return average at 29.3, behind Gale Sayers (30.6 from 1965-1971) and Len Chandenweiss. (29.6 from 1950-56).

ESPN's Michael Rothstein contributed to this report.

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