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: Pick ‘em – Mike Hilton or Cameron Sutton is the better long-term investment for a 2020 extension.
Explanation: Rather than the typical buy or sell today, I’m altering the format a bit to present an either/or situation. With both Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton slated to be free agents in 2021, the Steelers may attempt to get one extended before the regular season begins. Between the two, which one presents the better long-term investment?
Obviously playing in his favor is the fact that he has the experience and track record. Hilton is already a three-year starter in Pittsburgh with approaching 2000 snaps, three times the amount of playing time that Sutton has garnered in the same amount of time spent on the roster.
While his height may prove to be ultimately limiting, it’s hard to bet against Hilton’s versatility. Unlike Sutton, he has shown within a preseason context the ability to perform at a high level at safety. As a slot defender, his adeptness in playing the run—indicative of his 18 career tackles for loss—and blitzing ability paired with more than competent coverage skills give you little to complain about, or worry about. He plays above his size without a doubt and is a sure tackler.
Signing Sutton over Hilton would be about two things above all, primarily: price and upside. As somebody who has never had an established role before, it would be unlikely if he didn’t come cheaper than whatever Hilton would be willing to sign for on an extension.
But one thing we will never discuss about Hilton is playing on the outside. He’s just too short, shorter than the Steelers would want to manage, at a hair under 5’9”. They’ve dealt with the munchkin bunch secondary before with Antwon Blake and Brandon Boykin and company
Sutton is 5’11” and has already started a couple of games on the outside. He recorded a game-sealing interception in Week Six last season against the Chargers coming off the bench for an injured Joe Haden. He could be the player who succeeds Haden at left outside cornerback when the time comes.
Or he could be the nickel defender. Or he could play at safety. Or he can simply be your super sub that you move around. You have a lot of options when you have him under contract, and he’s only gotten better and more sure of himself each year.