Whether it’s football in shorts or even basketball in shorts—depending on whom you ask—the simple reality is that it is better to look good doing it than bad, and so far, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie third-round cornerback Cameron Sutton has been looking good, according to reports.
One such report came from Dale Lolley yesterday writing for the Observer-Reporter. “I’m liking what I’m seeing from rookie cornerback Cameron Sutton”, he wrote. “He had a nice interception last week, leaping high to come down with a pass. The young corner has shown good aggression in jumping routes and making plays on the football”.
That is what the Tennessee product showed on his college tape—becoming the all-time leader in pass deflections in school history—and is exactly why the Steelers drafted him, so to see it quickly translate in OTAs is certainly preferable to hearing of him struggling. “He gets his hands on the ball”, as Lolley put it, “a lot”.
After second-year starting cornerback Artie Burns spent parts of the past few days talking about the Steelers’ need to play more in man coverage—even while at least one report seems to quote William Gay as saying that the notion is hot air—it is all the more imperative that we see this out of Sutton.
It is quite possible that he becomes yet another rookie starter for this defense as early as the season opener, although that remains to be seen, and it hinges on how much they plan to—or how much they believe they can—play in man coverage.
Back during the draft, defensive backs coach Carnell Lake was asked about Sutton’s ability to play in man coverage, and the coach talked about wanting “the ability to call any defense”, referring to the man coverage that the Steelers sparsely use, saying “I think this is a good attempt, especially in the third round, of getting someone who can help us do that”.
Every other potential option that the Steelers could have in the slot is more of a question mark when it comes to their ability to run in that coverage. Gay is certainly less equipped to do so. Golson was a zone corner in college. Coty Sensabaugh would not be the first option, either.
If anything, the coaches may be crossing their fingers hoping that Sutton is able to win the job, even if he isn’t going to be handed it. He isn’t even getting many quality reps right now at the moment, spending a lot of time playing on the third-team defense and, by earlier reports, spending a lot of time on the outside.
It will be interesting to see how much things open up once we get to training camp, and how much they are willing to throw at the rookie if they intend to have him in the competition to claim a starting spot. The early reports are good, but right now, we’re still in shorts, and that’s not football weather.