Cameron Sutton has one of the most important roles on Steelers in 2021

Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton (20). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton (20). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Steelers lost quality cornerback depth this offseason. Here’s why Cameron Sutton has such an important role in 2021. 

Cameron Sutton is a player who has been in the spotlight for the Steelers this offseason. After the team lost two quality cornerbacks in Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson, it was expected that Sutton would step into a much larger role for the team in 2021.

But just how important will Sutton be to Pittsburgh’s defense this year?

Last season, the Steelers ranked 3rd in total yards allowed per game (310.8) and 5th in points allowed per contest (21.2), according to Team Rankings. If Ben Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh’s offense can take another step forward in 2021, this defense is clearly good enough to compete for a championship.

Unfortunately, Pittsburgh’s departures in the secondary leave a gaping hole that Sutton will attempt to fill – likely be wearing multiple hats in the secondary. Because the team lost their starting right outside cornerback and their starting slot cornerback in the same offseason, Pittsburgh could ask Sutton to play a combination of these two roles.

In Keith Butler’s base defense, it’s likely that Sutton fills Nelson’s old role as the outside cornerback opposite of Haden. When the team moves to nickel or dime defense, Sutton could be forced to move back into the slot, as both James Pierre and Justin Layne are better suited on the outside.

Making these transitions won’t be easy, and Sutton – a former part-time defender – is going to have some big shoes to fill in 2021. Is he up for the task?

Why Cameron Sutton can deliver for Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers showed just how much confidence they had in Cameron Sutton when they went the entire draft without selecting a single cornerback (seventh-round pick Tre Norwood is listed as a safety for Pittsburgh). In addition, the team did nothing to address the position in free agency after the loss of Nelson and Hilton early in the offseason.

While I can’t rule out Pittsburgh adding cornerback depth before or during training camp, they seem to be confident heading into the season with a huge role in place for Sutton.

Like your typical starting cornerback, I think the Steelers are going to want Sutton on the field for just about every play in every defensive package. Though the former Tennessee product doesn’t have elite size or athletic traits, he has remarkable instincts and closing speed to make plays in the passing game.

Despite starting just 6 games last season, Sutton was credited with 8 pass defenses, 3 forced fumbles, and an interception on just 53 percent of defensive snaps, according to Pro Football Reference. In many ways, Sutton is like a younger version of Joe Haden. Haden has never been a player to win with elite size or speed, but with quickness and the ability to diagnose the play.

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With a severe lack of depth at the cornerback position, so much depends on Cameron Sutton’s ability to stay healthy and to play well in 2021 if this defense wants to stay elite. After being arguably the best cornerback on the team over the past two seasons, I think he will be up to the task.