Steelers need more Cameron Sutton and less Vince Williams on defense

Tommy Jaggi
Cameron Sutton #20 of the Pittsburgh Steelers . (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Cameron Sutton #20 of the Pittsburgh Steelers . (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

The Steelers defense was exposed in Week 10. Here’s why they could use more of Cameron Sutton and less of Vince Williams.

For the most part, the Steelers defense has been brilliant in 2020. They have gotten more pressure on opposing quarterbacks than any team in the league, and they’ve allowed the fourth-fewest points per game through the first half of the season (20.1). However, things haven’t been as spectacular over the past few weeks.

Against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 8, Pittsburgh surrendered a whopping 265 yards on the ground, according to Pro Football Reference. Thanks to a good red zone defense, the Steelers were still able to come away with a win, but their ability to stop the run was concerning. Last week against the Cowboys, it was much of the same story. Though Dallas has had one of the worst offenses in the league after quarterback Dak Prescott went down for the season, Keith Butler’s defense couldn’t get them off the field most of the game, as they ran for 144 yards on 4.6 yards per carry.

Eventually, Pittsburgh was forced to score 15 fourth-quarter points to take the lead with just 2:14 remaining in the game and hang onto the win. However, their defense put them in a tight spot early on.

Disagree with this take if you’d like, but I think part of the problem for Pittsburgh in recent weeks is that they’ve been deploying too much Vince Williams and not enough Cameron Sutton.

Why the Steelers should use more subpackage defenses

Though you would think that the team’s best-run defense would come with Williams on the field, it may surprise you to learn that they were significantly worse in this department in base defense against the Cowboys. Williams was late filling holes on several occasions – allowing running back Tony Pollard to chunk off several big plays. In fact, the Steelers surrendered over 6.0 yards per carry while in their base 3-4 defense against the Cowboys.

Ont the other hand, Pittsburgh allowed roughly 3.2 yards per carry while playing in sub-packages. This is likely due to the difference in speed and not allowing running backs to get outside of them.

The biggest difference, however, comes in the passing game. While Williams has been brilliant at making plays behind the line of scrimmage this year, he’s been quite the liability against the pass. In 192 coverage snaps this year, Williams has earned a woeful pass coverage grade of just 39.7 on the year, according to Pro Football Focus. As a result, Pittsburgh’s defense allowed over a 128.0 quarterback rating with Williams on the field against quarterback Garrett Gilbert in his first NFL start.

However, in nickel and dime with Cameron Sutton on the field, the Steelers surrender just over a 51.0 quarterback rating and hardly gave an inch to the Cowboys fourth quarterback of the season. Sutton has been very solid this year in both coverage and against the run, and he has graded out as Pittsburgh’s best cornerback through the halfway point this year.

Must Read. State of Steelers at halfway point of 2020 NFL season. light

I like Williams and I think he is an asset to the team, but it’s clear that he is a limited player at this point in his career. Even if Mike Hilton returns to the field soon, I think the Steelers would be wise to play more Cameron Sutton and less Vince Williams moving forward.