The Pittsburgh Steelers have more defensive backs that they would like to play right now than they have secondary positions to fill. It may even be difficult to get everybody they want on the field in packages with seven defensive backs, which is a package that we saw a preview of very briefly late last season.
The two young defensive backs whom the team is most eager to see push for playing time are their two highest draft picks from the past couple of seasons. Rookie first-round safety Terrell Edmunds will be competing for sub-package playing time early on.
But that might be hard to come by if second-year defensive back (the title he prefers) Cameron Sutton, drafted in the third round, has anything to say about it. Having played cornerback at Tennessee, Sutton sees himself as a versatile player, and he has shown that during the spring.
While running second-team outside cornerback—he even got a week in the starting lineup when Artie Burns was absent—he also ran behind Mike Hilton in the slot. Sutton confirmed that he was given some work at the safety position as well, even though the Steelers added four safeties this offseason.
“It was more for my development”, he told Joe Rutter of his time working at safety. “Showing my versatility that I can play the position. I think they see that because they trusted me to put me back there. I have a great understanding of the defense, and I think it opens up more opportunities for me”.
Sutton’s priority heading into his second season is simple: get on the field. He doesn’t care where that is, as long as he is given an opportunity to play and contribute. He figures at least to be the team’s top backup both on the outside and the slot, but he will be wanting snaps in sub-packages as well.
That is if he isn’t starting. Rutter also seemed to echo a sentiment previous shared by Bob Labriola, suggesting that he could compete with Burns for that starting right outside cornerback position opposite Joe Haden, who was signed as a street free agent shortly before the regular season began in 2017.
“I’ve been moving around a little bit, and it’s giving me a lot of opportunity”, the young defensive back told Rutter of his work in the spring. “I’m trying to expand and keep building on what I learned last year. The more opportunities and reps I get, I can capitalize on them and make plays on the ball. That’s what it comes down to”.
Despite missing the majority of his rookie season on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, he returned in the second half of the season and got an opportunity to play some while Haden was injured, even starting a game. It was after that start, and Haden’s return from injury, that the Steelers dabbled in a seven-defensive back sub-package, which we will probably see again in 2018.