Cam Sutton’s time in Pittsburgh is done, after officially signing a three-year contract with the Detroit Lions. But he’ll remember his time with the Steelers well and thanked the organization in his Lions’ introductory press conference Thursday.
“Obviously being in Pittsburgh for the foundation of the first six [years], that was just its era and it was a beautiful time,” Sutton told reporters, whom he personally introduced himself to one-by-one, via the Lions’ YouTube channel.
Pittsburgh drafted Sutton in the third round of 2017, a smart and versatile defensive back out of Tennessee. The story’s been told many times but the team was blown away by Sutton’s football IQ, not only being able to explain his assignment but the role and assignment of every other player on the Volunteers’ defense.
Sutton didn’t see much playing time his first two years but improved his game, got better as a tackler, and his role slowly increased. He became the team’s dime defender, then filled in for Mike Hilton over slot, and eventually became the team’s starting outside corner the last two seasons. Sutton signed a two-year extension with the team in 2020, but his deal voided and he became a free agent.
Detroit offered Sutton his first mega-payday but he thanked the Steelers’ organization for developing him as a player
“Six years in in Pittsburgh has been phenomenal, man. That’s been my mold. That’s been the beginning,” Sutton said. “They gave me the first opportunity just to even make this dream come true. I’ve learned so much. I’ve been a part of so much of special, just a people situation, just a legacy from top, top down over the years. Obviously that’s nothing that I could never truly forget, truly not embrace. And that’s going to continue as well. It was all mutual. It’s still gonna always be mutual or just of a business aspect, all my love for all my brothers over the years.”
Pittsburgh eschewed paying what Detroit gave Sutton, a three-year deal worth $33 million. Instead, the Steelers went with an older and cheaper option, inking CB Patrick Peterson to a two-year deal worth $14 million. The team will also likely look toward the draft to get younger and faster.
Sutton took a moment during his press conference to thank several individuals for mentoring him along the way.
“[Owner Art Rooney II] like I said, from top down, just a really good mold. Coach T, the Rooneys, Colbert, Omar, all those guys who have been in kind of that seniority, high-level type of thing. They never shied away of just of molding us, putting us in the right situations, just showing us a life experience of things. Obviously the game, just molding the game. Obviously Mike T’s been a huge emphasis and mentor just over my game coming in.
“Teryl Austin, he was our DC there. The DB coach there, Grady Brown. I know I’m just kind of just naming off some of the coaches there too, but just of a legacy, that’s been my foundation.”
Pittsburgh’s boasted a strong coaching staff with defensive back backgrounds. That was Tomlin’s upbringing, a DBs coach in Tampa Bay before becoming DC in Minnesota and a year later, the Steelers’ head coach. Austin has coached DBs throughout his career, including being the positional coach until 2022. Brown is an ascending name and potential future defensive coordinator around the league. All three preached aggressive playmaking and the players responded, picking off 20 passes in 2022, tied for the league-lead.
Sutton turned in a career-year in 2022, picking off three passes with a 63.3 QB rating against and looking more comfortable as an outside corner. He’s parlayed that into a payday in the prime of his career and should make the Lions better for it. In Pittsburgh, Peterson will attempt to replace what Sutton offered on the outside though the team has plenty of work to replace all the versatility and flexibility he gave the Steelers’ defense.
You can check out Sutton’s full press conference below.