Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton has had a very good 2019 season for the team in his moderate usage and because of that we could see him play even more on defense in sub packages in the final 10 games. On Tuesday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked during his press conference to reflect on Sutton and his progress as a player since he was originally selected by the team in the third-round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Tennessee.
“You know, it’s just a natural maturation process of a player in an environment,” Tomlin said of Sutton, who has played 106 total defensive snaps so far this season. “He did a lot at Tennessee in terms of multi-positional things, safety, corner, inside and outside.
“We had an opportunity to have a real good classroom session with him the night before his pro day and Kevin Colbert and myself walked out of there saying, ‘Man, that guy is really sharp and he’s going to be able to play multiple positions and be able to do a lot of things.’ And I think, you know, his journey to this point has proven that to be true.”
Sutton has indeed shown his position flexibility since being drafted and especially in the Steelers first six games on this season. While he only has seven total tackles on the season, he has registered one of the team’s eight interceptions and currently leads the team in passes defensed with five.
While Sutton isn’t necessarily regarded as an every-down player, Tomlin explained on Tuesday why players such as him around the NFL probably aren’t as vocal as maybe some in the past have been about possibly not being considered full-time players and thus maybe not maximizing their full market values.
“I just think sub package defenders, you know, play the majority of the time in today’s game,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “So, you know, a nickel corner used to be the 12th defender, for example. The nickel corner is no longer the 12th defender when he’s on the field 75 percent of the time in today’s game, if you will.
“They get introduced in defensive warmups, or whatever, in pregame and so forth. So, they’re getting compensated accordingly. It’s about participation, it’s nothing earth shattering or groundbreaking there. They’re playing more because people are employing more receivers. The slot receiver position has evolved in the same ways and they’re interrelated.”
The Steelers currently have a few banged up cornerbacks in Joe Haden (groin), Steven Nelson (groin) and Mike Hilton (calf) so Sutton is great insurance to have when it comes to those three players should any of them miss any playing time moving forward after the bye week as he can play both inside and outside in a pinch. Sutton still has one more year left on his rookie contract as well so that provides the team some comfort from a depth standpoint at that key position.
Sutton also has proven himself to be a more-than capable special teams player so far during his NFL career and that was recently evidenced during an onside kick attempt late in the Steelers Week 6 Sunday night road win over the Los Angeles Chargers. On that particular play, Sutton elevated himself above other players to secure the loose football at an extremely high point and maintained possession of it throughout his awkward tumble back to the ground after contact. That great play caught the eye of Tomlin and the Steelers head coach noted it during his post-game press conference.
“He upheld the standard with the quality of his play. Not only a defense, but, man, that onside kick recovery was a spectacular play,” Tomlin said of Sutton’s play against the Chargers.