The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: When will the Steelers begin to incorporate Cameron Sutton into the mix in the slot?
I think that one of the most frequently-asked questions so far since the draft as it pertains to practical matters regarding the 2017 season has been surrounding the Steelers’ first of two third-round draft picks, cornerback Cameron Sutton, and what role he might be able to play on defense in 2017.
Thus far—bearing in mind that it is still incredibly early—it doesn’t immediately appear as though he is in line for a major role for the year, but that perhaps should not be a great surprise, given that the team is returning all five starting defensive backs from last season, as well as the majority of the reserves.
The big question, however, would seem to be about him playing in the slot, since that would seem to be the most logical place for him to contribute with Artie Burns and Ross Cockrell returning on the outside from last season. But so far he has evidently spent the majority of his time running on the outside with the third-team group.
Last season, the Steelers frequently challenged Burns with reps going up against Antonio Brown, and they injected Sean Davis into slot work on the second team, and then later the first team when Senquez Golson missed time, so it would seem obvious based on recent history that they are not averse to giving a rookie and opportunity to carve out a role.
And Sutton comes into the league with a sterling reputation as a player who has a mind for the game, who prides himself in understanding the assignments of all of his defensive teammates on any given play.
One would think that a player like that—and one who also possesses the man-coverage abilities that the coaching staff has been talking up this spring and summer—would be given a fair amount of opportunities to find a way into the lineup. I do sense that this question is more a matter of when than if, but until it happens—and again, it is early—it remains a question.