With the youth movement hitting the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary, Cam Sutton – part of that wave, of course – seems on track to maintain a seat on the bench to start his sophomore season. But based on the depth chart, it’s unlikely he’ll be seated for very long.
While I don’t think he’s going to have a Week One starting role, one injury – anywhere – is going to change that.
I talked about it a little bit in last weeks’ Mailbag. Pick any starter in the secondary, even the sub-package ones, and if they go down, Sutton figures to be the first man off the bench.
There’s a strong chance he becomes the top backup at all three cornerback spots so an injury to any of the top three – Artie Burns, Joe Haden, and Mike Hilton – is obvious. Sutton has worked at both corner spots and given his high football IQ, he should be able to handle the role despite his inexperience. It’s doubtful Brian Allen is going to jump him on the outside, Coty Sensabaugh doesn’t look likley to make the roster, and there aren’t any other viable options in the slot.
Dreams of moving him to safety were dead-in-the-water after the Steelers drafted Terrell Edmunds. But an injury there could definitely open up a path to playtime. We know who the expected three dime safeties are, even if we don’t know where exactly they’ll line up: Morgan Burnett, Sean Davis, and Edmunds. Assume one of them goes down with injury. What does the Steelers dime package look like?
Who comes in to play dime? Options become more limited. It’ll come down to Sutton vs Nat Berhe. Berhe could win that job but Sutton is the better coverage option. And for a few snaps last year, played in that hybrid role when Keith Butler rolled out a 2-2-7 “dime on roids” defense in Week 17 against the Cleveland Browns.
There’s Sutton, #34, lined up in the middle.
That was a very limited sample size (three snaps) and partially a response to the situation (last week of the year, no Mack linebacker). But Sutton clearly got some practice reps for it, did it in game action, and even if the whole group stays healthy, maybe Butler uses seven DBs a couple more times in 2018, especially if Jon Bostic’s play isn’t up to snuff.
Injuries are inevitable. I don’t know when it’s going to happen, where it’s going to happen. But when it does, Sutton is the favorite to be the first man off the bench. And we’ll get to see the progress he made from a rookie season that showed flashes.