The 2022 season officially came to a close with the Kansas City Chiefs being crowned Super Bowl champions over the Philadelphia Eagles. That means everybody is entering offseason mode, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, so it’s time to start thinking about the next moves.
The first item on the agenda is examining your own free agents and who you need to keep and how you manage to do that. Arguably the Steelers’ most significant free agent is cornerback Cameron Sutton, but will they manage to re-sign him? ESPN predicts that they will.
“Sutton continues to improve and is among the top cornerbacks set to hit the market”, Field Yates writes in the outlet’s 2023 offseason guide for all 32 teams in a subscriber Insider article. “He’ll earn a decided raise from his $4.5 million average annual value deal that he is currently playing on, but Pittsburgh has the resources to ensure Sutton — who had three picks and 15 pass breakups — sticks around at a position where it needs plenty of depth”.
Retaining Sutton would be a key move to retain their cornerback depth. He is their top player at the position and the rest of the group lacks stability or consistency. Levi Wallace is arguably the team’s number two cornerback behind him right now, and they have to see if Ahkello Witherspoon can get his feet back after a rather bad year.
A 2017 third-round draft pick out of Tennessee, Sutton exercised a good deal of patience over the course of his rookie contract as he waited his turn for opportunities. He worked his way up from depth to dime to nickel and finally to full-time starter.
He had a career year in 2022 with three interceptions and 15 passes defensed. Spending more time on the outside rather than the slot, he was also near the line of scrimmage less often, and that is reflected in his lower tackle numbers.
But that’s also indicative of his success in coverage. Pro Football Reference, for example, charged him with allowing only 35 receptions on the season despite being targeted 73 times, holding opposing passers to a 47.9 completion percentage. He allowed some touchdowns, naturally, but was able to take the ball back a handful of times as well.
Perhaps he doesn’t fit the conventional mold of a ‘number one corner’, but the Steelers, I think, believe that they can win with him in that role. Or rather, they don’t necessarily subscribe to the theory of the number one corner, because they center their philosophy around the scheme.
Sutton signed a two-year, $9 million contract upon the completion of his rookie deal. He has certainly earned himself a good deal more than that over the past two years. The biggest question is whether or not the Steelers will allow him to hit the open market—or perhaps rather if Sutton will allow the Steelers to lock him up before he gets a chance to explore it.