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: Cameron Sutton will start on the outside, not in the slot, in 2022.
Explanation: The Steelers signed four-year veteran cornerback Cameron Sutton to a two-year contract extension earlier this week. That deal extends beyond the contracts of both Joe Haden and Steven Nelson, their outside starting cornerbacks, whose deals run out after the 2021 season. Haden will turn 32 in a month.
While the Steelers valued his versatility at the time that they drafted him, Cameron Sutton was not somebody they pegged to be a slot cornerback. The third-round pick was selected in 2017 with the idea in mind that he could develop into a full-time boundary starter. That’s where he played to start out.
That’s where he’ll play in 2022 after Joe Haden’s contract expires. The team will likely extend Steven Nelson later this Summer, but Haden won’t get yet another extension as he prepares to play in his age-32 season. At the very least, he’ll be asked to play out his contract and see where things stand a year from now.
Sutton has shown steady growth throughout his career. The only problem is that he’s never had the chance to crack the lineup. He’s had to wait for every opportunity. Now that he’s 26 years old, they can’t afford for him to wait much longer. They’ll make the move they have to and move on from the cornerback who will be 33—unless he moves to safety and they don’t re-sign Terrell Edmunds.
Sutton has spent more time in the slot than he has on the outside—and when he did start on the outside, he has struggled at times in the past. In 2018, Coty Sensabaugh leapfrogged him. He got burned for the game-tying touchdown in the season opener a year later. Stefon Diggs burned him last year.
He fits better in the slot, in terms of his coverage attributes. And Haden will still be here. I don’t know what that guy above me is talking about. Haden’s not going anywhere. Plus, let’s see where Justin Layne and James Pierre are a year from now.