In case it isn’t obvious by now, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first plan of attack for the secondary this offseason is to find a new slot defender, leaving Cameron Sutton on the outside. For much of the first half of the offseason, many had assumed that James Pierre, or possibly Justin Layne, would be the fifth defensive back, which would result in Sutton kicking inside, but it’s more or less been established at this point that that is more of a last resort in their eyes.
Truth be told, this all probably says a little bit of everything. It says what they think of Sutton’s skills outside versus inside. It says what they think of their alternatives to play outside. And it says something about the skill set they’re looking for to play in the slot. When push comes to shove, I think most agree that Sutton fits more naturally outside based on what the Steelers want from their inside defender.
Senior defensive assistant Teryl Austin already said back during OTAs that the team would be exploring its options in the slot. They continue to do that, and may be getting close to finding some answers. As for Sutton, though, they largely view him as a known commodity, but one with remaining upside.
“He’s doing well. Cam’s an extremely, extremely bright person, bright football player”, Austin said of the fifth-year cornerback yesterday. “He sees things that happen, and he’s really good in terms of route recognition. I think he’s another guy that has steadily improved since I’ve gotten here and had a chance to be with him for a couple years”.
“You really can see the improvement with a couple of them”, he added. “He and [Terrell Edmunds], those guys just keep improving, and that’s good for us, and I think he’s gonna be fine outside. Really got great ball skills, he’s a solid tackler. He has good quickness, great awareness. He’s got the things that you need to be able to play corner”.
A third-round pick out of Tennessee in 2017, Sutton has spent his entire career up to this point as a reserve, but circumstances led to him playing quite a bit last season. He did start out the year as the dime defender, but he ultimately started seven games, including four in the slot, two on the left outside spot, and one on the right.
This year, he is taking over the right side occupied by Steven Nelson for the past two years, who just signed with the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday. Pierre and Layne, for the time being, are shaping up to be their next two outside cornerbacks, should there be a need (even if to play dime if they do kick Sutton inside for that).