When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected defensive end Sutton Smith in the sixth-round of the draft, it was always expected that the undersized defender would need to change positions to make it at the next level. But few fans could have envisaged that would involve moving to the offensive side of the ball.
Measuring in at under 6-foot-1 and just 233-pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine, his size suggested a conversion to outside linebacker, and while he has seen reps with that group this offseason, it appears that the Steelers continue to be interested in seeing what he can do as a fullback.
When speaking to the media after practice on Thursday, Smith made it clear that he was willing to do whatever it takes to make the roster and help the team, noting his previous experience at the position during high school.
“I played running back back in high school and obviously everybody thought, like, since of my stature, fullback could be a possibility, and I definitely agree. Whatever I can do to be on the field is what I’m going to do and whatever they need. Like I’ve said in the past, I’m going to do whatever a Coach Tomlin needs and the Steelers organization needs me to do to be successful for this program and just helping out everybody here. That’s my goal.”
#Steelers linebacker (?) Sutton Smith has gotten some work at fullback. He talked about that a few minutes ago. @937theFan pic.twitter.com/eDFKwhGApd— Josh Rowntree (@JRown32) May 30, 2019
As a senior at Francis Howell High School in Saint Charles, Missouri, Smith ran for 2,046 yards and scored 27 touchdowns and was named 1st Team All-State running back by the Missouri Football Coaches Association. Watching some of the clips of Smith running drills during OTAs, it does appear he has a certain affinity for the position.
“I see you switch-hitting, 4-2.” - #Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin to rookie Sutton Smith, who was a college LB, a high school RB and may just be a two-way LB/FB in the NFL. pic.twitter.com/IFDzNwgcHT— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) May 30, 2019
OTA No. 6 included a non-pads version of Backs-on-‘Backers. Mike Tomlin took notice of, among others, RB Benny Snell Jr. and LB Sutton Smith (No. 42), who started working at FB as well as LB last week and continues to experiment as a two-position player. pic.twitter.com/wkTe4B2nCi— Mike Prisuta (@DVEMike) May 30, 2019
It is far too early in Smith’s NFL journey to suggest that fullback will be his position when the team arrives at training camp later in the year, but the path he is potentially on is one that is a familiar story for another member of the team.
Like Smith, Roosevelt Nix was an undersized defensive lineman coming out of the MAC in 2014 who opted to switch his position to linebacker ahead of the draft. Ultimately signed by the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent, Nix was converted to fullback during training camp and the rest is history.
If Smith is to make the final 53-man roster, it might be fair to suggest that special teams will be his primary focus once the team gets to Latrobe, but the more the young prospect can do, the better his chances. His apparent positive attitude and willingness to contribute as instructed can only be helping his cause.