The Pittsburgh Steelers’ secondary consisted of four players who played every snap during the season opener, all four of whom have been with the team for the previous two years. That included fifth-year cornerback Cameron Sutton, who entered the starting lineup on a full-time basis this season following the exits of Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton.
And with the Buffalo Bills on the field for most of the game, playing every down meant being on the field for 85 snaps, a hefty workload (the Steelers offense was kept under 60 plays, in comparison). But cornerback Joe Haden knows there’s no way they could have gotten Sutton off the field.
“We were getting up there”, he told reporters earlier today with regards to the snap count, “but Cam, he’s a well-conditioned athlete, and he’s been looking forward to the position to be able to play the outside corner, so you’d have to carry him out by his collar”.
A third-round pick out of Tennessee in 2017, Sutton has had a hard time cracking the starting lineup, though in another era, it probably would have happened a lot sooner. The Steelers signed Haden as a free agent in August of his rookie season, and then two years later, after 2016 first-round pick Artie Burns faltered, they added another starter in free agency when they signed Nelson.
Pittsburgh is not the sort of team that makes a habit of signing starters in free agency, so it’s likely that Sutton would have gotten an earlier opportunity to start if he were drafted, say, a decade ago. But he is also a player who has consistently grown over the course of his career, so in the long run, it probably wasn’t a bad thing that he had to wait.
Now that he’s out there, however, he’s not about to let that opportunity go. Sutton was all over the field on Sunday, active in all phases of the game. He played well in coverage, recording two passes defensed, including a big breakup on a flea flicker. He also blew up a 4th-and-1 conversion attempt with a run stop for a loss of several yards. He had three defensive ‘stops’ in all amidst his five tackles, which is a lot for an outside cornerback.
That said, as much as he relishes the opportunity to play on the outside now, he has to be willing to move around. Out of his 85 snaps, he did play 16 in the slot, and he also rolled back to safety on another 10 snaps, aligning in the box for another six.
The bottom line is, good luck trying to get him off the field. As a player who can play any spot in the secondary, he is doing everything in his power to ensure that he never spends another snap on the sidelines watching his defensive teammates.