The Pittsburgh Steelers have long been known for a poor secondary. This narrative dates back to Bill Cowher’s time in Pittsburgh, but even though the vast majority of Mike Tomlin’s tenure with the Steelers has been a mix-and-match look at defensive back.
Entering the 2020 season the Steelers shockingly sport one of the league’s top secondaries with the likes of Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Steven Nelson and Joe Haden. At cornerback, the position is bolstered by Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton, and Sutton is a player who very well could see an expanded role within the defense in 2020.
During a virtual press conference Tuesday, defensive assistant/defensive backs coach Teryl Austin foresees Sutton seeing more playing time during the upcoming 2020 regular season.
Teryl Austin said Cam Sutton will have an expanded role, has a lot of versatility, and is a super smart guy. He said he is strong in pass defense.— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 11, 2020
Hilton is the incumbent slot cornerback in the team’s most popular defensive package, the nickel, with Sutton filling out the role as the dime defensive back. But could things change entering this season?
Both Hilton and Sutton are entering the final year of their current contracts, and the odds of them bringing both back in 2021 is highly unlikely. Hilton might be more of a proven commodity, but it isn’t as if Sutton hasn’t produced during his time with the Steelers since being drafted out of Tennessee.
In his three years in Pittsburgh, Sutton has seen an increased role in the Steelers defense. In 2019, Sutton played in 25% of the defensive snaps where he logged an interception, a sack, and five passes defensed. He was targeted 25 times in 2019 with 14 completions. Most importantly, Sutton gave up no touchdowns according to Pro Football Reference and also had the lowest yards per completion of anyone in the Steelers secondary at 9.4 yards.
With the phrasing of “having an expanded role” and having “versatility” may mean Sutton could be used in a variety of positions in the Steelers secondary. Sutton has already proved he can be used in the safety position as well, so should the Steelers have a need at some point in the season they could call on Sutton to fill-in just about anywhere a need would arise.
One thing is for sure, having a player such as Cameron Sutton who can step in at so many different places with high quality play is a far cry from what Steelers fans have had to endure in the secondary in years past. But more than just the fans, seeing secondary coach Teryl Austin praise Sutton and say his role will be expanded in 2020 is a huge vote of confidence for the young defensive back entering the final year of his contract.