Let’s be honest: the door was open for Cameron Sutton to play once Joe Haden was injured. And we saw that he got the first snaps of his professional career on Monday night, spelling Coty Sensabaugh in the second half for the Pittsburgh Steelers defense after the veteran was beaten multiple times for touchdowns by A.J. Green.
I believe my colleagues were more pessimistic about him being given the opportunity, and more surprised when it happened, when I was, though even I knew that it would probably be a borderline matter of necessity before it happened, and the way Sensabaugh was playing, it had the feeling of a necessary change.
That is basically what head coach Mike Tomlin said after the game, saying that he put Sutton in feeling that they “needed a spark”. Normally you don’t expect to get that ‘spark’ by inserting a rookie who missed the first 10 games, and I wouldn’t necessarily say that his insertion had much to do with the defense only allowing a field goal in the second half, but this is where we are.
Where, exactly, that is remains to be seen. Will the Steelers allow Sensabaugh and Sutton to compete during practice—on a short week no less, heading into a divisional game in prime time—for the chance to start their next game?
They have in the past utilized a rotation of players, which is something that they can consider. In 2015, Antwon Blake and Ross Cockrell spent time rotating in at left cornerback, and Brandon Boykin later in the season was involved in some shuffling mid-game as well.
I will say that it will be interesting to see what the next game holds for Sutton. He could play the entire game, or not see a single snap. Whoever starts is only keeping the seat warm for Haden, whenever he is able to return, which will hopefully be as early as the week after next, in time to face the Patriots.
Personally, I would like to give Sutton the chance to play. Sunday’s game is not a must-win, and Sensabaugh has done little to justify his place in the starting lineup, anyway. In fact, he has played worse than I expected him to. I actually liked him when they signed him, but he has shown his worst traits in recent weeks that makes it a lot easier to consider benching him.
Sutton can always be pulled rather easily if he happens to struggle, the same way that Sensabaugh was pulled. Neither Sutton nor Sensabaugh are supposed to be starters, and Sensabaugh does not exactly have the most secure spot on the team to begin with.
Having now dipped his toe in the water, and put some snaps on film, the coaching staff can make a more informed decision about Sutton for the next game, and for however long Haden misses. If his play justifies him playing, then he should play.