When the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Sutton Smith out of Northern Illinois in the 6th round of the 2019 NFL Draft, fans saw the potential of a player who could be a pass rushing demon for the black-and-gold for years. What they didn’t know, or see, was how Smith has a background on the offensive side of the football. In fact, in High School Smith was an accomplished running back.
So, when the rookies reported for rookie minicamp, and the Steelers had him running some drills with the offense, it raised some eyebrows. This continued through Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and Mandatory Minicamp, but no one thought it would ever last. After all, the team has Roosevelt Nix at full back, but here we are in the second week of training camp and Smith is still doing work with the offense.
Maybe it wasn’t just a cute gimmick all along...
“Honestly, I’m here for whatever he needs,” Smith told Kevin Gorman of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. “I’m here if he wants to put me at wide receiver or whatever. I like to see myself as an athlete, so I try to do my best. I mean, I played running back in high school and I was OK at it and he saw it on film and thought it could translate into the fullback setting so I think it’s going to be a good thing. It’s just getting the feel.”
You can’t blame Smith at all. After all, who would possibly tell a coach they don’t want to do more and try to get on the field more?! However, you do have to wonder how it could possibly work, Smith being a full back, with Nix still on the roster. But let’s not assume Smith can’t handle both sides of the football.
In fact, Smith can carry the football. He rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 32 touchdowns as a senior in High School, but played strictly defense as a pass-rushing defensive end at Northern Illinois, where he recorded 30 sacks and 58 tackles for loss.
The flip side is learning two positions at the NFL level certainly isn’t easy, but that isn’t how Smith sees it. He sees it as doubling his chances to make the football team.
“It puts a little bit on my plate but it’s not something I can’t handle,” Smith said. “It’s definitely an opportunity that I want to have and it’s a great opportunity to show what I can do so I really like it.”
The move from defense to offense even requires him to change jerseys from No. 51, a linebacker number, to No. 42, an ball carrier number. Fans love a good underdog story, and Smith certainly has that attached to him as he tries to make the Steelers roster by any means necessary.
Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest and greatest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for the preseason in just over a week.