There’s no way of getting around the fact that NFL rosters are cyclical in nature. Every year at a minimum, hundreds upon hundreds of new players enter the labor market for just 32 NFL teams, each of whom field 63 players per season, plus those on injured reserve and other non-active lists.
With hundreds of players drafted every year and just as many if not more coming in as undrafted free agents, it’s inevitable that some of the 2000-plus players with NFL contracts from the season before are going to lose their spots. Some teams see far more turnover than others on a regular basis.
As we get close to the draft, I want to do some risk assessment for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster based on their current needs and how they have handled them in free agency, compared to how they typically go about handling their business in the draft.
Asset: CB Cameron Sutton
Roster Vulnerability: Low
Role Vulnerability: Low
I was debating on including Cameron Sutton into this series, but I ultimately decided that it makes sense to. The fact of the matter is that, as a cornerback who is not within the top three of the group, and whose special teams role is not set in stone, he is by no means a roster lock. And while I believe he is more likely than not to be with the team, there are some plausible scenarios that would make that difficult.
The first would be if the Steelers choose to use multiple draft picks to address the cornerback position, which is something that the team has done four times since Mike Tomlin has been the head coach. The first time was in 2009 with Keenan Lewis and Joe Burnett. Then they had Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen. After a break of a few years came Senquez Golson and Doran Grant. Most recently, it was Sutton and Brian Allen.
The team has taken at least two defensive backs in each draft class of the past four years, in addition to that, and five of the last six. It’s virtually guaranteed that they will do so again this year, and perhaps with even three defensive backs taken.
Outside of draft considerations, Sutton still has to contend with Artie Burns, who is a former starter, and Brian Allen, who is better on special teams. If either of them can convince the coaches that they can play on defense, Sutton will become vulnerable.
I also don’t want to leave out the possibility of Coty Sensabaugh being brought back. Remember, Sensabaugh leapt ahead of Sutton on the depth chart last season and started in place of Burns for most of the year. Just because he’s not on the roster now doesn’t mean he can’t return once they have a clearer picture of their depth chart after the draft. Sutton is going to have to compete for a roster spot this year. A competition he’s likely to win, but nevertheless.