Whether Joe Haden plays next week or not, the Pittsburgh Steelers have every intention of putting a left outside cornerback out on the field that they trust. Should the veteran not make it back in time for Sunday’s game, then second-year Cameron Sutton would be asked to make the second start of his career. He started against the New England Patriots a year ago replacing Coty Sensabaugh, who was benched while filling in for an injured Haden.
Sutton was a third-round draft choice out of Tennessee a year ago whose draft stock fell a bit after sealing with an injury during his senior season. He missed most of his rookie season with a hamstring injury he suffered late in the preseason, which landed him on injured reserve before he was activated in the second half of the season.
One of the features that most attracted the Steelers to him was the cerebral approach that he takes to the game. The fact that he prides himself in knowing what every other player on the defense is supposed to be doing is a source of comfort.
“I kind of prepare [as a starter] every week regardless of if you are or you aren’t”, Sutton told reporters on Monday in the locker room. “That’s how you have to look at it. If the opportunity presents itself, or if you’re not starting out there initially, you’ve got to be ready to go”.
He proved ready to go last season when the Steelers pulled Sensabaugh at halftime in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The then-rookie cornerback stepped in during the second half and played above the line, his first career snaps on defense.
On Sunday, he was the fourth cornerback, the first off the bench, and it became necessary for him to do so. The Cleveland Browns picked on him on back-to-back big plays, first for an explosive play and then a 17-yard Josh Gordon touchdown that tied the game with just under two minutes to play. But he came back in the fourth quarter with an interception.
“Cam came out and they tested him”, starting free safety Sean Davis said of Sutton’s 2018 debut. “That’s what the NFL does. He lost the first battle, but he came back and fought and won the second one. That’s expected of him”.
The cornerback who will be starting on the opposite side, Artie Burns, said that “when somebody goes down, we don’t expect a drop-off with the guys we have in the room”. Sutton had a strong training camp, but his preseason performance was up and down.
Should Sutton start, the team may ask Burns to shadow Tyreek Hill, though the Steelers also view Sutton as a cover corner. Prior to replacing Haden in Sunday’s game, he was already seeing some snaps as a seventh defensive back.