He might not be a household name, especially outside of the fan base, but four-year veteran Cameron Sutton did open some eyes over the course of the past season with increased playing time. a veteran reserve, he got plenty of opportunities to start in 2020, both in the slot and on the outside, due to injuries—and due to Covid-19.
It was enough for Pro Football Focus to name him the one pending free agent that the Pittsburgh Steelers can’t afford to lose, which is notable when considering that the list of their other pending free agents includes JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, Bud Dupree, Tyson Alualu, Mike Hilton, Alejandro Villanueva, and others to boot.
Obviously, there are a lot of factors at play here, including realistic limitations. The Steelers are actually substantially over the salary cap already, and they’ll have a hard enough time just coming into compliance before even worrying about retaining any of their own. The article reads on Sutton:
While the Steelers have a handful of big-name free agents, ED Bud Dupree and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster among them, it’s unlikely Pittsburgh will be able to dole out the big bucks for anyone. For that reason, ensuring that their coverage unit can maintain a high-level of play should be their focus.
CB Joe Haden will be 32 years old in 2021 and is coming off his lowest-graded season since 2016. He was still solid with a 66.6 overall grade and 69.6 coverage grade, but there’s an outside chance he ends up a cap casualty in 2021, even with an $8.575 dead money charge.
Haden is not going to end up a cap casualty, though at least they said there was an outside chance. But he is still going to be 32 and is not going to play forever. You can never have enough good cornerbacks, and if you lose Hilton in free agency, then is no longer even a luxury, but rather a necessity.
Pittsburgh is still waiting on 2019 third-round pick Justin Layne to develop. He did get on the field a bit in the dime package in 2020 when there were injuries, but he returned mixed results at best, and even saw undrafted rookie James Pierre play ahead of him in the postseason.