The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Cameron Sutton in the third-round of the 2017 NFL Draft with hopes that he can potentially be a starting cornerback for them either inside or outside. As a plus, they just might have found a player who can return punts for them as well and thus one who might finally be able to supplant wide receiver Antonio Brown on special teams.
“They [the Steelers] brought it up,” Sutton said during his post-selection conference call of the possibility of him returning punts for the team. “That’s going to be a big part of it as well. Hopefully I get the opportunity to do that as well.”
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert also made sure to highlight Sutton’s return ability during the team’s draft wrap-up press conference.
“He has also done some put returning,” Colbert said when talking about the Tennessee product.
While Sutton only returned six punts for 32 yards during the 2016 season, that was likely a result of missing several games with an ankle injury. He did, however, return 45 punts during his college career for 657 yards and four touchdowns. In fact, Sutton finished the 2015 season as the FBS’ leading punt returner as he averaged 18.7 yards per return on 25 opportunities and two of those he returned for touchdowns.
The Steelers have used Brown almost exclusively as their punt returner dating back to 2010, his rookie season. While a few other players have been given the opportunity to supplant him in that role over the years, none of them turned out to be upgrades.
The Steelers haven’t used a defensive player as a punt returner since 2007 when cornerback Allen Rossum returned 36 of them for 232 yards during the regular season.