Four seasons ago, Cameron Sutton was the new guy in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ secondary. A third-round pick out of Tennessee taking on a new role in a new defense. Now four years after the Steelers drafted him, Sutton is one of the veterans of the team’s secondary. That secondary went through some major changes in the offseason, and leaves Sutton as both the veteran leading a group of players who are in his shoes from four years ago, and a new player himself as he adjusts to a promotion to the team’s No. 2 corner role.
Sutton spoke about both those topics during a media session with reporters Wednesday following OTA work, and the importance of getting that offseason work this year to bring a new secondary together, unlike last offseason when the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way teams could practice during the summer.
“Being able to come in this year and being able to come in to the physical and work with the new guys necessarily instead of going into camp and no preseason, things like that, you’re obviously able to experience more. You’re able to put guys in different situations to see what guys can do,” Sutton said. “And that’s how you continue to build your team. We’re never going to put a guy in a bad situation, knowing that he can’t perfect that technique or that coverage or that route or whatever it is. So we’re able to see how that guy fits in the scenarios.”
“You just have that time to be able to take younger guys and walk through concepts and walk through things that are struggling. Obviously everyone’s not the same learner. You find that balance. You’re not necessarily being that leader role, but we’re all in this together,” Sutton continued later in his interview.
Sutton may be new to the main starting four of the secondary, but he is not new compared to his teammates. Sutton is tied for the longest-tenured Steeler among the team’s starting cornerbacks and safeties, with fellow corner Joe Haden at four years on the roster.
It has placed him in a leadership role, particularly as it relates to James Pierre and Justin Layne. Those two are the players likeliest to assume the third corner role after the free agency departure of Mike Hilton to Cincinnati. Also contending for the spot are rookies Tre Norwood and Shakur Brown.
Sutton’s new role sees him replace another offseason loss, Steven Nelson, whom Pittsburgh surprisingly cut to save money this offseason. It’s given him the opportunity he has worked and steadily climbed the depth chart across four seasons for.
“Going into the year, I’m coming for everything. That’s not going to change. That’s the same mentality, same approach in everything I do whether it’s on or off the field. That’s just the grit in me, that’s just the grit in this organization and our teammates, and just the hunger for coming out with wins and bring Super Bowls back to the city of Pittsburgh,” Sutton said.
Sutton received a two-year, $9 million contract this offseason, one of the moves that eventually led to Nelson’s surprise release. In signing that deal, he becomes the rare cornerback to earn a second contract after being drafted by the Steelers, and gets the expectations to continue the level of success the secondary has had over the last few seasons.
“Why would I put it on somebody else’s role? I want the role for myself. That’s just getting back to your approach, getting back to what you want for yourself, what you’re willing to put on the line for this team, for this organization,” Sutton said. “I’ve done that over and over the course of this time. And now I’m looking to obviously continue to keep expanding and maximizing in the roles and opportunities that they presented for me.”