The 2018 NFL Draft is drawing near, which seems to be a fitting time to take a look back at the rookie seasons of the Pittsburgh Steelers class from the 2017 NFL Draft. People start talking about the quality of a draft class before said class is even completed, of course, but now we have a year of data to work form.
Over the course of the next several days, I will be providing an overview of the team’s rookies, as well as an evaluation of each rookie that the Steelers drafted, while also noting any undrafted free agents that were able to stick around. This will not include the likes of Mike Hilton and Kameron Canaday because they were first-year players, not rookies.
The Steelers went into the 2017 NFL Draft with eight selections, including one in each round at their natural selections, as well as an additional pick in the third round as compensation for the net losses that they were dealt in free agency from the 2016 offseason.
Continuing a recent trend, the class has proven to be top-heavy in terms of early results, though there are still opportunities for those selected by them in the later rounds of the draft to develop into bigger contributors as well.
Player: Cameron Sutton
Draft Status: 3rd round (94th overall)
While many fans were holding out hope for a first-round cornerback (I concede that I was one of them, and that I was among those who underestimated T.J. Watt), the Steelers did use a Day Two pick on the position by picking up Cameron Sutton.
As a player whose stock dropped a bit due to injuries in his final season, Sutton is a cornerback who is capable of playing in tight coverage and getting his hands on a lot of footballs. He showed that a bit during the spring and summer, and into the preseason, but his time was derailed by a hamstring injury.
Evidently serious enough to squeeze him onto the injured reserve list, it was not until the second half of the season that the Steelers activated Sutton, but it was not long before he was called into action.
With the injury to Joe Haden that caused him to miss five games, the team turned to Coty Sensabaugh to fill in, but as he struggled, he was benched in the second half of the game against the Bengals, and Sutton filled in for the rest of the game, then starting against the Patriots.
While the rookie did give up a touchdown in the game, opinions about his performance were generally positive, including my own, despite what the title might seem to imply. Late in the year, the team even gave him a bit of work as a dime defender.
That is where he figures to compete for playing time heading into his second season, behind Artie Burns, Joe Haden, and Mike Hilton. It may even cause the Steelers to make extensive use of the package.
Sutton will also continue to contribute on special teams. He added a variety of duties on multiple roles in that phase of the game to his list of activities, which will serve him well and keep the coaches happy.