Cameron Sutton will be entering a full-time starting position for the first time in his career in 2021. He knows that his role will be a crucial one as he replaces, in part, potentially both the roles of Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton, a pair of starters departed from the secondary.
And it will be up to him to help the Steelers figure out what went wrong at the end of last season and to prevent it from happening again. Because after starting the season 11-0—by far their best start to a season by record in franchise history—they lost four of their final five regular season games before being embarrassed in their lone postseason game. So what is his solution?
“The easiest term just to throw out there is to finish”, he said on Monday on SiriusXM. “We all know just during a long season, how lengthy that can be, with injuries, just a week-to-week basis. Everyone has every excuse to throw out there on any end of what goes wrong, or what we should’ve done. But it’s the simplest terms is finishing”.
The Steelers lost to the Washington Football Team, the Buffalo Bills, and the Cincinnati Bengals in consecutive weeks, before initiating an impressive comeback to claim a win over the Indianapolis Colts. While resting numerous starters, they did lose to the Cleveland Browns, who then, again, beat them handily a week later in the postseason.
“None of those games that we were in, we weren’t even necessarily out of the games, or unfavorably matched, or anything like that”, Sutton said. “Outside of that, just our mentality and the aspect of being a Pittsburgh Steeler and our brand of football, we’re expected to win every game that we’re in”.
The Steelers did lost to the Bills and the Bengals by multiple possessions. In fact, it was 23-7 entering the fourth quarter against the Bills before cutting it to 23-15—a one-score game—with 12-plus to play. They also trailed the Bengals by seven with over five minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
One of the themes of the season, even in some of their wins, however, was their petering off as the game wore on. There were a few games, for example, that came down to time running out with the defense on the field, their opponents going for the end zone and a defender having to make a play.
“We can’t just play two quarters of a game, or three quarters of a game, or even just a couple minutes into the fourth”, Sutton told his hosts. “We just have to finish out games 60 minutes and push all the chips into the middle of the table”.
Of course, it’s easier said than done. And there isn’t much that has happened on the defensive side of the ball since the end of last season that would make one feel they’ve become more able to close out a game. Perhaps the return of Devin Bush, but that’s about it.