Cam Sutton will be the engine for the Steelers secondary
By Shayne Kubas
With so many losses in the Steelers secondary, Cam Sutton will need to step up and help get the most out of the young guys.
The Steelers had plenty of needs going into this year’s draft, primarily running back, offensive line, and cornerback. While they invested heavily in the first two, cornerback was largely untouched. Even the pick of Tre Norwood from Oklahoma is more likely a depth move at safety than corner.
Aside from bringing in Shakur Brown and Mark Gilbert as UDFA’s, the coaching staff seemed to be comfortable with the group they already had. The primary reason for that is the re-signing of Cameron Sutton, who finally was given a chance to play enough to show what he can do. Although he has been at his best as a slot defender due to his quickness and physicality, he has shown the ability to step outside and hardly miss a beat.
The real question fans should have is who will emerge behind Sutton and top corner Joe Haden. James Pierre was great on special teams and flashed a few times in his limited defensive snaps, but he is still mostly an unknown. Justin Layne has not developed much since being drafted in 2019 and has unfortunately had some legal trouble this offseason. How much the Steelers can get out of both them and the undrafted additions will determine the ceiling of their defense, and Sutton returning gives the Steelers the best chance to get the most out of this group.
Sutton’s versatility will be the anchor for the Steelers secondary
Although he is expected to fill the hole at the #2 corner spot left by the release of Steven Nelson, Sutton has clearly shown he is capable of playing any role asked of him. Just look at this NFL Next Gen breakdown of his alignments.
This will be key to maximizing his fellow defensive backs because it will prevent the coaching staff from needing to force players into roles they are not suited for. If James Pierre for example shows in camp that he is far more reliable at outside corner than the slot, maybe Sutton primarily plays slot corner in nickel and dime packages. The same thing applies to the others as well.
In general, his ability to move around the defense and still play at a starting-caliber level will help elevate the rest of the secondary. That is the biggest reason (other than money of course) that he was brought back as opposed to Mike Hilton. Hilton would still be great to have but he is purely a slot corner. It would force the team to play an inexperienced player at the outside corner regardless of if they are ready. Not exactly ideal for a team looking to make one last run with their aging QB.
Despite all the losses in the secondary, I believe in the coaching staff to develop and prepare the young players for bigger roles in 2021. More importantly than that though is the flexibility Sutton will give them when determining each player’s best role. Wherever he lines up in 2021, expect Cam to be a big part of the Steelers success on defense.