It came to some as a shock when the reports surfaced that the Pittsburgh Steelers were shopping starting cornerback Steven Nelson, after starting for the team for the past two seasons as a priority free agent signing. The team ultimately released him in a cap-saving measure, leaving Cameron Sutton to ascend into the starting lineup.
One wonders, then, if that was part of the discussions Sutton had with the team as he was re-signing on a two-year, $9 million contract. He spoke to reporters earlier today about the Nelson situation, and seemed to suggest that he wasn’t given any direct communication that it was going to come down to one or the other.
“Not to say [there was] no indication, as far as what’s going on or a shakeup or anything”, he said, as to whether or not the release was a surprise, via a Zoom interview with beat writers earlier today. “I only know what’s going on in my situation. I was presented to have every opportunity to continue, as is, and as a competitor, I’m coming in for that, not to say just his situation—whether he was here or not. That’s just what that is and that situation”.
A versatile player who can play all positions in the defensive backfield, Sutton has never had a full-time role in the defense before, but he started seven games at various positions last season, and figures to move into that role this year. “I’ve been able to create an opportunity for myself, and we’re ready for it, ready to roll with it, full head of steam”, he said.
He also let it be known that Nelson’s departure had nothing to do with him or the team in any way other than business and opportunity, as least so far as he can tell. “That’s my boy, all the love and respect, but it’s business, and that’s things that people sometimes don’t see or necessarily understand”, he said.
“It’s not a personal thing [like] he doesn’t want to be in Pittsburgh or it’s bad blood with coaches or business or anything like that”, Sutton continued. “It’s just business words. You don’t know what he has going on for himself or his family or opportunities present for himself. You have to be happy for his opportunity, too. That’s how I look at it”.
Nelson remains unsigned after the Steelers released him as the free agent market has cooled. Prior to his release, two other starting cornerbacks who were let go were able to find strong deals for themselves, including Kyle Fuller, and at this point it’s beginning to look like he may have been too late to hook up with a team on a fair contract, at least before the draft.