Now that the 2019 season is over, with a team other than ours having been crowned champion and there being much work to do to return to that status, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: CB Cameron Sutton
Stock Value: Up
Once again, I consider this to be an interesting case, because while he was able to raise his level of play on the field in 2019, it did not necessarily reflect an advancement of opportunity over the course of the season, nor is there an obvious path for advancement in Pittsburgh going forward, as it concerns Cameron Sutton.
A former third-round draft pick, he is now heading into the final year of his rookie contract, and he remains the number four cornerback on the depth chart. Most concerning is the fact that he is still not viewed as the top backup on the outside, or at least had not been in-season yet without being benched.
The team was fortunate to have only one game missed from their starting cornerbacks, Steven Nelson sitting out a game, but when he did, it was the embattled Artie Burns who was given the opportunity to make that start. Sutton has started multiple games in the past, but the last one was in 2018, and he was soon pulled in favor of Coty Sensabaugh.
Sutton did receive playing time, however, and as the season developed, he was eventually given the dime role over Kameron Kelly. There were even packages in which he was utilized as the nickel defender over Mike Hilton, whose strength is more so his all-around game rather than specifically his work in coverage.
With Joe Haden, Nelson, and Hilton all set to return in 2020, it’s impossible to see any upward mobility. In the meantime, 2019 rookie third-round pick Justin Layne will be looking to push for playing time himself after redshirting defensively a year ago.
It may well come to pass that Sutton finishes his career in Pittsburgh having never been given an opportunity to have a consistent and meaningful role, and that would be unfortunate, the failure to give him a proper evaluation of what he could deliver on a larger stage. Perhaps he can compete for the nickel job, but that is his best-case scenario, barring injury. Still, the simple fact that he raised his level of play alone I believe deserves acknowledgement as ‘stock up’.