Ever since he’s been drafted, heck, even speaking to the media during his Northern Illinois Pro Day, Sutton Smith has been adamant he’ll play wherever an NFL team wants him to. That statement might have been tested a bit on Thursday. Missi Matthews spotted Smith, wearing a new #42 jersey, lining up with the offense as a fullback/running back.
I caught up with @suttonsmith5 (#42 defense) after practice today about working with the #Steelers offense for part of practice. His interview will be up shortly on https://t.co/lpUa8m5Ig5. pic.twitter.com/i1PFmfjNKo
— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) May 23, 2019
Smith wore #51 in rookie minicamp and the first few days of OTAs. In the interview, Smith sounded excited to be on the move.
“Did a little fullback stuff, little bit of RB,” he told Matthews. “Back in the high school days, trying to bring me back up a little bit. Just the more I can do, the better. I told everyone that I was an unselfish player and whatever I gotta do to be able to be part of this program and team. Just be successful and help the unit.”
It’s too early to call this a full blown move to the offensive side of the football, Smith was still wearing the defense’s gold jersey in practice, but a linebacker to fullback conversion is fairly common. Roosevelt Nix, the team’s starting fullback, played defensive tackle at Kent State. Pittsburgh briefly switched him to linebacker before flipping him to lead blocker.
There’s several examples of it around the league, too. Nick Bellore made the move for in Detroit two years ago. Owen Marecic played LB at Stanford but switched to FB for Cleveland after drafting him. And the Falcons dabbled with Foye Oluokun at that spot in training camp last season, though he never actually saw an offensive snap during the season.
Working out of the backfield isn’t anything new for Smith either. He was a two-way star in high school. rushing for over 2000 yards and 32 touchdowns at fullback as a senior. He had nearly 1700 all-purpose yards the year before. Northern Illinois kept him as an edge rusher. A wise decision, he was twice named MAC Defensive Player of the Year and ranks third in school history in sacks.
“They just want to test the waters,” Smith said of Thursday’s experiment. “That’s what happened today. I thought I did pretty well at it. We’ll see what happens. The more I can do, the better. Whatever Coach Tomlin needs, anything really, I’ll be there.”
The goal for Smith is to maximize his value. The more hats you wear, the more things you’re capable of doing, the more value you have and the easier it is to make a 53 man roster and earn a helmet on gameday. You certainly have to admire Smith’s can-do attitude. He may not make the roster but he’ll be a tough out when the final decisions are made.