The Pittsburgh Steelers have not had the greatest luck in keeping their rookies healthy this year. So far the only four of the eight who have been consistently healthy have been first-round outside linebacker T.J. Watt, fourth-round quarterback Joshua Dobbs, fifth-round cornerback Brian Allen, and sixth-round long snapper Colin Holba.
Everybody else has been injured. According to our own sources, the Steelers anticipate that seventh-round outside linebacker Keion Adams is going to end up having surgery on his injured shoulder and landing on injured reserve. Second-round wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is dealing with a bone bruise and has already had a concussion and an ankle injury. Third-round running back James Conner missed most of the entire year going back to the spring with different injuries, the most recent being a shoulder sprain.
Then there is third-round cornerback Cameron Sutton, who suffered a hamstring injury early in training camp. Excluding Adams, who is not expected to play in any capacity this year, the rookie is expected to be the last of the Steelers’ draft class to make his preseason debut, doing so tonight against the Colts.
When and where remains to be seen, but I would have a hard time imagining it coming at any point with the starters. With Artie Burns needing the valuable reps, the team may already be toying with getting Coty Sensabaugh and Mike Hilton snaps with the first-team defense.
But no doubt they are very eager to get a look at Sutton, who was supposedly rather impressive during the spring, getting his hands on a number of passes. That sort of ability to play the ball, and to do so in man coverage, is exactly the reason that they drafted him, and he said just recently that he still intends to be a contributor this year.
In order to do so, he will naturally have to show that he is capable of doing so, and the best way to do that is to make some plays during live game reps. It is unclear where he will work, exactly, though if I recall correctly, he has to date spent the majority of his practice reps lined up outside as opposed to the slot.
Heading into training camp, there was some anticipation over seeing what Sutton will do with pads on, and with getting him snaps in the slot, working under the belief that that is most likely where he would end up playing. Many believed, or at least hoped, that he could take the starting nickel job this season, even by the opener.
But right now, he just needs to get on the field and move around. He likely is not at much risk if at all of failing to make the roster. Still, if he wants to make sure he gets a helmet on Sundays, he might want to try to make a tackle or two on special teams.