The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2017 NFL Draft class was an impressive one that produced three Pro Bowlers within two years. While running back James Conner and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster may not have maintained the same high level of production that they had in 2018, they are still quality performers, and of course, the class was topped by outside linebacker T.J. Watt in the first round.
Often lost in the shuffle has been Cameron Sutton, the cornerback out of Tennessee taken in the third round that year ahead of Conner. That has been largely because he came to the team for the first time in years when they actually had depth at his position.
But he was finally able to find a regular role in 2020, his fourth season, as the dime defender, and over the past four-plus weeks, has had the opportunity to man the nickel role with Mike Hilton being out. While he appreciates the steady playing time, he told reporters yesterday that he still values his ability to play anywhere in the secondary.
“What’s more special than being versatile? I never wanted to just be a stationary guy”, he said. “I’m a moving target. I’m not gonna just let you stand there and just shoot at me. That’s just my style of game, being versatile, being able to come from outside to inside, being able t play safety and come down, being able to play dime, being able to play nickel”.
Seen by some as a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none sort, Sutton’s more steady playing time this year has given some outsiders the opportunity to see what kind of performance he can deliver on a weekly basis when given the opportunity.
“Whatever it takes to be on the field and be around the ball, that’s just what it is”, he said. “Everyone always talks about, do you want to keep moving around? I just want to play. I just want to ball. I’m not worried about none of that”.
He also said that it has been routine for some time that he practices all over the field, even during the course of a single week of practice. “I take reps everywhere, week in and week out. I’m never just stationary”, he told reporters. “It might depend on the day of the week or situations throughout the week, but normally throughout the week I’m not just stationary at one position”.
As a pending unrestricted free agent in 2021, Sutton will be difficult for the Steelers to keep—because it will be difficult for them to keep anyone. When you factor in the fact that they only have a few dozen players under contract, they are already more than $30 million over the salary cap floor of $175 million set for next season, without even the consideration of re-signing their free agents.
Given that Hilton will also be a free agent, the Steelers will be in desperate shape to try to keep at least one of them, even with the potential emergence of some of their younger defensive backs—a group that now includes Marcus Allen, Justin Layne, Antoine Brooks, and James Pierre.