While the Pittsburgh Steelers are not on the short end of the stick this week with regards to which of the two teams in today’s game has been more affected by Covid-19, their stick could be longer. The Cleveland Browns will be without multiple starters and their head coach, among other staff, due to the virus, but the Steelers will also miss starting cornerback Joe Haden.
That means more time outside for Cameron Sutton, who has started three full games outside this year—once for Steven Nelson due to injury, and twice for Haden, once due to injury and once due to the virus. He has also seen extended playing time due to injury in other games, seeing a career-high 154 snaps at the ‘wide’ corner position this year.
“It’s been really beneficial”, Sutton said earlier this week about getting that time outside, especially in preparation for starting there today. “Obviously, prior to the last four out of the six games, just kind of that control the middle of the field, so to speak. Within that, sometimes I’m in on those early possession downs or opening downs, leading up until now”.
“Now with a more extensive role, just having control early in the downs and obviously third downs and so forth”, he added. “It definitely gives me a lot of comfortability, a lot of confidence, just having opportunities to be aggressive, to make plays on the ball, just come up with stops and keep helping this defense and keep moving us forward”.
Even with injuries, Sutton does kick inside during the times the Steelers play in the dime, with Justin Layne coming in to play on the outside, but any cornerback in this system is going to have to move all over the place, from up at the line to back at safety. Sutton can do that, and that’s why the coaches trust him so much.
“He knows pretty much the whole defense. That is something we try to encourage with our players”, defensive coordinator Keith Butler said of the fourth-year cornerback. “Cam has learned the defense, knows the defense. He knows what everyone is doing, he knows where his help is and that is probably the biggest thing for him in terms of playing the position the way he has played it because he knows what he has beside him and what’s behind him. That always helps when you have players like that”.
Especially when you’re down a player, as the Steelers are in Haden. The veteran should be back if the Steelers advance to the next round, but first they have to make sure that they hold down the fort with Sutton and Nelson starting at cornerback once again, in what could possibly be the last game of the former’s Steelers career as he hits free agency.