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Steelers Film Room: Why Cameron Sutton deserves to start opposite Joe Haden

Artie Burns and Coty Sensabaugh have performed poorly, but Cam Sutton has showed promise

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

It is no secret the Steelers have not found a suitable second cornerback to play opposite of Joe Haden. It does not help Haden is continually helped over the top by Sean Davis. Davis has easily been the best safety on the team, and is blossoming in front of our eyes. This is not to say Terrell Edmunds has been bad, because he has not, but Artie Burns has been left on an island while Edmunds is used as a chess piece around the field. Burns struggled against the Chiefs, and this fact was no secret to the Buccaneers or Mike Tomlin. Tomlin benched Burns and Tampa Bay immediately targeted him as soon as he entered the game. Burns only played a third of the game, while Sensabaugh played two-thirds of the game and Burns’ statistics were arguably worse Sensabaugh’s.

Want even deeper context to that?

Haden played every snap and two of the three receptions he gave up were to OJ Howard or Cameron Brate, including the touchdown attributed against him. Needless to say, that is going to be a mismatch every single time that Haden is on one of those two. His frame is simply not made to cover large bodied tight ends, but he was lockdown on the right side of the defense all game.

As for Burns, he was advertised as a strong man coverage based cornerback coming out of Miami. For the first two years of his career, the Steelers used largely zone bases schemes and he blew about as many assignments as anyone else on the team. So, Keith Butler gives more man based concepts to the cornerbacks and what does Artie Burns do?

He does that. Burns is a long and athletic cornerback who should be using his length to be physical and disrupt the speed aspect of receivers like Tyreek Hill. I do not know where physical Artie Burns went, but I would like for him to return. Burns was not only torched on his pathetic attempt at being physical, in which not only does he not use his hands properly, but his leg steps inside and give Hill the outside leverage. This is a textbook example on how to get burnt by Tyreek Hill.

Burns had a good first game aside from his meltdown, but Monday was by far his worst game of the season. Burns was burnt time and time again by DeSean Jackson, Mike Evans, and Chris Godwin. On Evans’ late fourth quarter touchdown, Burns put on a clinic off how not to play off ball man coverage.

I explain some of what he did in the tweet itself, but what in the world are you doing with your mirroring Artie? Evans has about two steps on Burns before the cut just based off of bad mirroring by Burns alone. Once he leans inside, this is a sure touchdown as long as its on the money. Burns needs to use length and physicality to at least bump Evans off his route. You saw Joe Haden do it when he broke up a pass near the end game that was deep for Evans. Burns could easily play this a bit harder by coming down on Evans as he makes the cut, and while Evans would have a step, Burns could use his length to come back and break it up.

So, Burns is playing bad, and what is the solution to the Steelers’ problems? Coty Sensabaugh! The only way this could get worse is if Sensabaugh was thrust into the starting role opposite of Haden. Boy did it ever show against the Buccaneers. There were a myriad of plays where he simply gets beat off the line from a release standpoint, but what I really want to focus on is the touchdown he allowed.

There have been bad plays this season, but none have been worse than this. Sensabaugh shows the complete lack of awareness that should be possible for an NFL level cornerback. Sensabaugh is really a guy who shouldn’t be on this team. I have said it before, but give me Burns a hundred times over Coty Sensabaugh. This play should never happen. I have no clue how he managed to lose sight of this ball and any competent cornerback makes this play.

That brings me to the best option for the Steelers, in my opinion, and that is starting Cameron Sutton. There is no better alternative right now. Is Sutton great? No, he is not. He is a maturing 2nd year player who is now just playing his first season after missing half of his rookie year. He has his bad moments, but he knows how to mirror, how to track, how to be physical, and most importantly, he has ball skills.

Sutton played at RCB for one drive and was in the slot after Hilton left with an elbow injury. Once they moved Sutton outside, the Buccaneers went three and out, and Sutton was targeted once because he blanketed players like this. What a fantastic display of how to stop DeSean Jackson. Fitzpatrick gets rid of it quick, but you can already see the square hips and the mirroring ability by Sutton. His hands are active and he is ready to break with any cut Jackson makes.

It is simple, start Cam Sutton outside and slide Sensabaugh inside until Hilton is ready to come back. If Hilton has a significant injury and has to miss the rest of the season, please go and sign a free agent who can play outside or slot. Delvin Breaux is still available. So is David Amerson and Quenton Rollins. Are these guys any good? No, but they are all better than Coty Sensabaugh. Brian Allen is better than Coty Sensabaugh, so if you want to bring him off the practice squad, do that too. But for now, start Sutton outside.

The film does not lie.