The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Cornerback Cameron Sutton will start getting some more snaps in the nickel defense over the course of the second half of the season.
Explanation: A 2017 third-round pick, Cameron Sutton has begun to truly come into his own in his third season, with the only problem being that it’s been difficult for the Steelers to find a consistent role for him. Joe Haden and Steven Nelson have manned the outside positions, and Mike Hilton has been in the slot for over two years, so he has only played sparingly, mostly in dime packages.
Sutton is the one making the plays in the secondary. He alone recorded three passes defensed for the group in the Steelers’ last game, including a game-ending interception and another breakup that occurred in the end zone and saved a touchdown. He also had another pass defensed in the end zone earlier in the year.
This has been a steady growth for him over the course of the offseason, culminating in his increased playing time. The bye week is the time for teams to make adjustments, and based on performance, he will be due to see a bigger role in the second half of the year as the defense continues to search for players who can make plays for them.
The Steelers had a golden opportunity to put him in the starting lineup in the last game when Nelson was injured. They let Artie Burns start instead. I can’t even remember if he had seen any defensive snaps this year prior to that. And he did his job.
By and large, so has everybody else in the secondary. And because everybody has been playing at a solid level, including Hilton in the slot, there is simply no room right now for upward mobility, leaving Sutton kind of stuck. He is the next man up in the slot, but not on the outside, and it’s hard to predict that changing.