Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, 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
Reasoning: Earlier in the week, senior defensive assistant Teryl Austin made it clear that Cameron Sutton would have a defensive role this season, the final year of his rookie contract, though he didn’t go into details.
Originally taken in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Sutton is the only pick the Steelers made on the first two days of that draft that has yet to go to the Pro Bowl or to earn a full-time starting job. That’s not entirely his fault, though, since they’ve signed two significant free agents at his position since he was drafted, in Joe Haden and Steven Nelson.
The former Tennessee Volunteer has shown steady progress over the course of his career, barring the setback of 2018 in which he lost out on the opportunity to take over a starting job from the struggling Artie Burns, that role ultimately falling to the more veteran Coty Sensabaugh.
Even in 2019, he was passed over in favor of Burns for a chance to start when Nelson missed a game last season, but he has started in the slot and has played in the dime role over the past two years. When he did get on the field in 2019 in particular, he made himself look like he belongs.
In 265 defensive snaps played, he picked off one pass, a game-sealing interception, and added five passes defensed. He also managed to get the first sack of his career and registered two tackles for loss among his 16 on the season. He’s credited with allowing 14 receptions on 25 targets for 132 yards with zero touchdowns and a passer rating allowed of 54.1.
And now he’s gotten the public endorsement from his position coach, Teryl Austin, as he enters his all-important final season of his rookie contract, stating not only that he’s capable of playing, but that he will be playing.
Exactly in what capacity remains to be seen. I think we will see a significant uptick in the dime defense, for one thing. But will he also be used situationally, for example, at times player over Mike Hilton in the slot? It’s something they briefly dabbled with last year.