The Pittsburgh Steelers appear to be viewing the 2021 season as their last best hope of achieving their annual goal of winning a Super Bowl for the near future, or at least as part of the Ben Roethlisberger era. While it’s not etched in stone, it’s widely expected to be the quarterback’s final season in Pittsburgh, whether he wants to continue playing or not.
Pushing toward the goal of devoting all possible resources to winning this year was made much more difficult due to the economic ramifications of the pandemic on the salary cap, which resulted in the team releasing starting cornerback Steven Nelson, but Cameron Sutton, entering his fifth-season and newly re-signed to a two-year, $9 million contract, is ready to step up.
“We are all about winning. I am all about winning”, he told Teresa Varley recently, in an article for the team’s website. “I want to challenge myself for those situations. I want to step up and make that play. I want to end a drive for us. I am built for that pressure. I want to continue to show that to the organization and the league”.
A former third-round draft pick out of Tennessee in 2017, the closest thing to a regular role that Sutton has ever held in the defense is when he entered last season as the team’s dime defender. In spite of that, he still ended up playing more than 600 total defensive snaps over 17 games a year ago, including the postseason, making seven starts, including three on the outside.
The majority of his playing time over the course of his first four seasons has come while lining up in the slot, and depending upon how the rest of the offseason unfolds in terms of what they are able to add to the cornerback position, he may have to continue to play there a lot, moving inside when the Steelers move into their nickel.
But he also has a lot of experience lining up on the outside. Five of his career nine starts have come on the outside, dating back to his rookie season, so he has accumulated a good mixture of experiences throughout the secondary, a level of versatility in which he takes a lot of pride.
With that being said, it can’t be disputed that the secondary was greatly diminished with the departures of the offseason, which also includes slot cornerback Mike Hilton leaving in free agency. Justin Layne, James Pierre, and Trevor Williams are the only notable reserves currently available.
The Steelers are certainly banking on Sutton demonstrating the capability of being a full-time starter with the ability to move around in-game. But there’s a point in most starters’ career where they have to be thrown into the fire. And it’s not like he hasn’t done it at all before.