Devil’s Advocate: Sutton Starts The Season

You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.

In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.

When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.

Topic: Will Cameron Sutton become the second rookie defensive back in a row to begin the season starting in the slot?

When the Steelers drafted Sean Davis in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, they probably didn’t plan on him opening the season in the slot, but it kind of became a necessity with the injury suffered by Senquez Golson and the need for Artie Burns to develop his abilities before taking on a bigger role to allow William Gay to move back into the slot.

But he did start the season, and this year we may see another rookie start in the slot, this being third-round pick Cameron Sutton, who seems ideally suited to bolstering their ability to play on a man between the hash marks, perhaps their greatest defensive concern.

The fact that the Steelers were willing to go into last season with Davis working in the slot would seem to indicate that they would have no problem allowing Sutton to open the season in the same position. Sutton, after all, enters the league as a more experienced defensive back, and with more time logged at cornerback, specifically, as Davis was more of a safety.

Sutton also already enters the league as a self-professed film junkie, a description his college coaches concurred with. He is reputed to know the assignment of every player on the defense on a given play. That is the sort of football intelligence that lends itself to excelling in the slot, which is often an important communicator on the defense.

We do also have to consider that Davis’ early role in the slot was partly attributable to necessity. That is not the case this year. Gay is still here, and they also brought in Coty Sensabaugh, a veteran with a lot of experience playing in the slot. Of course, Golson is still in the picture.

Sutton will at the very least have three competitors that he will have to beat out between now and the start of the regular season if he hopes to begin his career as a starter. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible, but it does mean it’s not going to be easy.

Which side do you lean closer toward?

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