Cameron Sutton could be in for a big role in 2018. Or a staring role, anyway. And it isn’t on defense. While the kickoff is still part of the game, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ second-year cornerback is preparing for the possibility that he could be used as a return man this upcoming season.
Speaking recently to the team’s website, Sutton talked about what he is doing to prepare for the 2018 season, saying that he is working on becoming a more well-rounded player in all facets. “I am not limiting myself. I have a lot of time to get reps at everything, whether it’s off man, press man, getting in the film room and seeing how teams are going to attack us. Every aspect of the return game”.
Did you catch that last bit? “Every aspect of the return game”?
Sutton was a returner in college. While he only recorded four kick returns during his four seasons at Tennessee, he was the team’s primary punt returner for his sophomore and junior seasons (he was limited by injuries his senior year).
He returned 46 punts in all for 657 total yards, recording an impressive 14.3 yards per return, which included three of them going back for touchdowns. Those numbers are dragged down by his poor work in the return game during his injury-riddled senior season. He averaged 18 yards per return on 26 returns in 2015, his junior year.
The former third-round pick did say that he is focusing on every aspect of the return game, though, and he is already a part of some of those aspects. Late in his rookie season, he did receive some work on both the punt return and coverage teams as jammer and gunner, respectively. He also saw some time on the kick coverage unit.
The Steelers knew when they drafted him that Sutton was a possibility to be used in the return game, though they selected him because of what he could do at the cornerback position. While he waits for an opportunity to crack the lineup on defense, however, it would behoove him to make himself as useful as possible to Danny Smith.
His most immediate course of action would be to gun for the punt return job, which the Steelers tried to give to Eli Rogers the past two years. He struggled for much of that run, resulted in Antonio Brown replacing him in both seasons, but Rogers regained that role late last year following Brown’s injury and actually was able to do well.
But Rogers is currently not on the team, even if the Steelers have expressed interest in re-signing him at a later date as he rehabs from a torn ACL. It’s obvious that the team wants to keep Brown off of returns, and Sutton would be happy to oblige that wish.