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CBs Cam Sutton, Levi Wallace Praised For ‘Above-The-Neck’ Play By Mike Tomlin

On Tuesday, HC Mike Tomlin spoke to the media in his weekly press conference where he talked about the team’s win Sunday on the road against the Atlanta Falcons and previewed the team’s upcoming Week 14 matchup at home against the Baltimore Ravens this upcoming Sunday.

During the period of the press conference where Tomlin opened up for questions, the statement was made that CBs Cam Sutton and Levi Wallace both have double digit pass breakups on the season as the team enters Week 14. When Tomlin was asked about what that specific stat means to him, Tomlin responded stating that both corners not only have the physical traits to execute in coverage, but also the mental makeup to make plays.

“Man, they both have really good above-the-neck games,” Tomlin said regrading Sutton and Wallace to the media Tuesday on video from the team’s YouTube channel. “When you are good above-the-neck, there’s a feel, there’s an anticipation, and oftentimes, that feel or anticipation is required to do anything other than tackle the catch. In the National Football League, everybody’s varsity. All things being equal, you have good route running, you got accurate throws, you got good coverage. Usually what you have is defenders tackling the catch. And so, when it gets beyond that from a defender’s standpoint, there’s some anticipation or intuition or knowledge there that gives them the edge to go beyond that.”

According to Pro Football Reference, Levi Wallace leads the team with 11 PBUs thus far in 2022 with Cam Sutton just behind him at ten pass breakups.  While the pass defense hasn’t exactly been stellar this season with Pittsburgh ranking 28th in the NFL in passing yards allowed and 30th in the NFL in passing TDs allowed, Wallace and Sutton have provided reliable play relative to the expectations placed on them as quality cornerbacks that are more suited to be CB2s rather than CB1s in a secondary.

Neither Wallace nor Sutton are great athletes as Wallace was clocked at a 4.63 40 during the pre-draft process while Sutton ran a 4.52 40 at the 2017 NFL Combine. However, both defenders have been recognized in the past for their awareness and ability to make plays in coverage due to their mental makeup, being in the right place at the right time.

While the Steelers arguably still need to find a CB1 that can cover team’s opposing alpha WRs, the combination of Sutton and Wallace provide Pittsburgh two serviceable coverage defenders that may lack a high ceiling but possess a reasonably high floor. Fellow CB Ahkello Witherspoon has been unavailable for a majority of the season due to a hamstring injury. However, despite being a better athlete than Sutton and Wallace, Witherspoon has been far less consistent than the other two when he has been healthy this season.

The Steelers should try and re-sign Sutton this offseason and should part with Witherspoon if needed to do so given that his contract is easy to get out of in 2023. With Wallace and Sutton in tow, Pittsburgh and direct its focus to finding a CB who brings CB1 traits to the table to compliment the steady play of Sutton and Wallace in the secondary.

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