Pittsburgh Steelers rookie cornerback Cameron Sutton has been a topic of conversation as of late, and not without good reason. The third-round pick, after all, is just coming off his first career start, though it could be his last for a while with Joe Haden returning. Or we might be in for a surprise.
It remains to be seen just what happens on Monday when the Steelers take the field and whether or not Sutton will be in the defensive plans with all healthy bodies available, but if he is, or if he is not, at least he now has some meaningful game experience under his belt. He played all defensive snaps in which his position at left cornerback was required on Sunday against the Patriots. And while he literally fell on his face, scraping grass out of his helmet, he did not do so figuratively.
Let’s take a look at some of the plays from that game as we sit here on Christmas Eve waiting for the Steelers to actually play a game tomorrow. He was the third rookie to start a game for the Steelers this season.
Early in the second quarter, with the Patriots possessing the ball on the Steelers’ 33 on first and 10, Tom Brady looked down the field to the left for Brandin Cooks. But it’s notable on this play that New England’s shifting sent both of the wide receivers to one side of the field, making Sutton move over there as well. They did similar things throughout the game, and the rookie handled the unusual assignments pretty well, making no obvious mistakes.
On the very next play, New England motioned Kenny Britt late to the right side into Sutton’s coverage. The receiver was able to chase him off a bit threatening a post route before coming back in, but the rookie broke back to the ball to tackle the catch after a seven-yard gain, setting up a third and three.
Early in the third quarter, the second play of the second half, Sutton did have a misstep against the run. a Brady pass to Cooks picked up seven yards on first down. On second down, running back Dion Lewis was able to make the rookie miss in the hole on edge contain, allowing him to pick up five yards for a new set of downs.
At the end of that same drive, about six minutes later, Brady was able to get the better of Sutton working against Cooks from four yards out. While he had pretty solid coverage in the play, the receiver did get out in front of him, and Brady made the play he needed to, to result in a touchdown.
Halfway through the fourth quarter, on second and seven, he was up against Cooks again, who was trying to play to the chains. While the receiver was able to free himself and present his numbers to the quarterback, the defender, again, tackled the catch, and this time held him short of the first.
It could have gone better, or a lot worse, for the rookie, especially considering who he was going up against. Certainly, I didn’t see anything that would leave me discouraged about Sutton’s future. But I also wouldn’t be putting him in the starting lineup right now on a full-time basis.