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 be a better cornerback than Steven Nelson.
Explanation: According to Aditi Kinkhabwala, there were some within the organization already last season who believed that Cameron Sutton would represent an upgrade at cornerback to Steven Nelson. Now that Sutton is re-signed and Nelson is gone, he will have the opportunity to state that case.
Nelson was good, there’s no doubt about that, but there isn’t really anything that he offered that, for a normal team, isn’t replaceable. Given that the Steelers have struggled mightily with the cornerback position over the past decade, that can’t be taken lightly, but Sutton looks to be their one good draft pick during that time who won’t fall apart.
The one thing above all that you have to like is that he’s sticky in coverage, and that’s emphasized by his nine combined interceptions and passes defensed (eight of the latter) last season in 430 snaps in coverage. Nelson robbed Sutton of a second interception by jumping in front of an air ball (as you can see in the lead image).
Sutton has consistently shown gross in each of his seasons, particularly in the last two years, and he is to be particularly commended for working to round out his game and become a more complete (and physical) player in 2020. That bodes well for his developing into a genuine quality starter.
Nelson’s detractors will point to the fact that he hasn’t been signed by anybody yet as proof enough that he was never very good in the first place, yet he was their best cornerback in 2019, and at that point, everybody loved him.
He had a bit more of an up-and-down season in 2020, in that he actually gave up touchdowns in comparison to the zero that he allowed the year before, but Sutton had more than his fair share of misses in coverage as well, and I’m not just talking about going up against Stefon Diggs.
The Steelers did lose four of the seven games that Sutton started last year, out of their six total losses on the season. And while he can be aggressive in coverage, that sometimes burns him—and the entire secondary in the process.