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: Cameron Sutton’s best chance to play some snaps outside of injury will be at strong safety this season, when Terrell Edmunds is playing in the box.
Explanation: Though he’s never done it in a game outside of a shift to disguise something, Cameron Sutton has always been talked about as a potential safety-capable player since he was drafted. The Steelers like him, but they just have nowhere to play him. They also want a hybrid-type player, have talked about Edmunds being that type, and don’t have any other enticing options as players who can play safety while Edmunds is in the box.
This really makes a hell of a lot of sense. When the Steelers are using a dimebacker-type player, chances are those snaps are going to skew toward passing situations, so I don’t think we should be overly worried about the running game, but even still, Sutton did make strides last year in showing his willingness to come up and play the run.
But of course it would be his coverage that gets him on the field, and he actually did a very nice job of that last year in his most extended playing time yet. Especially in hindsight, it would have been nice if he were given the chance to start rather than Artie Burns.
Additionally, now that he is in the final year of his contract, and with the potential for Justin Layne to emerge as a top reserve, adding that quality in-game safety experience will increase his value, and thus the likelihood of his being retained.
Sutton isn’t even going to have a chance to play safety, barring injury, because the Steelers are never going to manage to get a dimebacker installed into the defense. And they don’t need to, anyway, because they have Devin Bush and Ulysees Gilbert III to play the linebacker roles in passing situations. Both are supremely athletic for the position and should handle themselves in coverage.
That’s not to say that Sutton couldn’t execute the role if given the opportunity. It’s just something that is not going to reach that point. Mike Hilton played safety in the preseason last year and, surprise surprise, nothing came of that, either. It’ll be in his bag of tricks, but it’ll be kept there.