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 the Steelers’ ‘dime back’ this season.
Explanation: The nickel back is the fifth defensive back who comes on the field, regardless of where he plays, but it’s generally associated with playing in the slot. Likewise with the dime back being the sixth defensive back, regardless of where he plays, but characterized as a slot role. The statement argues whether or not Cameron Sutton will move to the slot when the Steelers play a dime defense, even if he remains outside in the nickel, as it appears likely to be.
While the Steelers are looking for a specific type of player with a diverse skill set to play in the slot in their nickel defense, which is one of the reasons that they want to leave Sutton on the outside and are seeking options such as Antoine Brooks Jr. and Arthur Maulet, that’s far less valuable in a dime role.
Teams basically only play a dime defense when it’s very obvious that the proceeding play will be a pass, and generally they have at least four wide receivers on the field, or at least with a tight end clearly aligned as a receiver, generally on possession downs and with long-distance yardage, or in late-game trailing scenarios.
You don’t need somebody to play the run there. You want your best cover guys. And their spring excitement seemed to indicate that they believe James Pierre is one of them. Pierre might technically be the ‘dime’ player, the sixth who comes on the field, but Sutton will play the ‘dime back’ role, the second slot defender, kicking inside from the boundary.
Having a good spring doesn’t really mean a whole lot, if we’re being honest, and we haven’t heard much about James Pierre since training camp opened. On the other hand, we’ve heard a fair amount about both Brooks and Maulet, and it wouldn’t be in the least surprising if one is the nickel and the other the dime.
Brooks feels more likely to be the nickel as a physical presence who is more likely to face running situations as the team’s base defense. Maulet offers experience and versatility, something that is desirable with a ‘new’ member of the secondary and a first-time starter in the mix.