The Pittsburgh Steelers’ secondary is anything but set in stone. Outside of Joe Haden playing on the outside, not much is settled on their depth chart. This offseason the team signed Cam Sutton to a new contract, and the expectation of Sutton is still up in the air.
Will Sutton play on the outside, replacing the released Steven Nelson, or will he be moved to the inside to fill his normal role in the dime sub package and help fill the role Mike Hilton occupied in the past?
When defensive assistant coach, and secondary coach, Teryl Austin met with media he knows one thing for sure, Sutton is a really good, and versatile, player.
“Cam is an extremely, extremely bright person. A bright football player,” said Austin. “He sees things that happen, and he’s really good in terms of route recognition. He’s another guy who has been steadily improving since I got here, and I’ve had a chance to be with him for a couple of years. You can really see the improvement. He’s going to be fine outside. He has great ball skills, a solid tackler, good quickness, great awareness, so he’s got the things you need to be able to play corner.”
What would need to take place for Sutton to move back to the inside? Would the emergence of someone like Justin Layne and/or James Pierre make the decision to move Sutton inside easier?
“That scenario is always there, because we want to put our best guys on the field,” said Austin. “Right now what we’re working with is we know Cam can play nickel, but he’s playing outside now as a starter. We don’t know what we have inside at nickel, so we want to make sure of what we have there. And we know if James Pierre really has an outstanding camp, or if Justin Layne, who has been doing well, continues to do well – if those guys play lights out in the preseason – whoever the five best are, those are the guys we want on the field.
“We know Cam Sutton can always play in there,” said Austin. “I don’t doubt Cam, but that’s not where we want Cam right now. I want to make sure we get those two guys (ready) and see if we can strengthen our team by having a guy in there.”
It is clear the Steelers want Sutton to be on the outside, which means they need to find someone who can fill the roles in both the nickel and dime sub packages. Antoine Brooks Jr. has been given the first shot at the slot, with Arthur Maulet awaiting his chance. Rookie Tre Norwood is someone who has been discussed as filling Sutton’s old role in the dime, but is there any type of deadline for these type of decisions to be made? Austin doesn’t think so.
“I don’t think there’s a date in mind,” said Austin about a possible deadline. “I think it’ll shake itself out. Those things usually do once you see them play a couple of preseason games and you see them in a competitive situation. One guy usually separates himself from the others. It’ll work itself out. I’m not worried about it, and I’m not worried if it doesn’t work out with either one of them and we have to move Cam back inside. I’m not worried about that. Cam can get himself ready for that with a week’s worth of repetitions.”
The Steelers valued Sutton enough to go out and sign him over Hilton, and his versatility and intelligence was a large reason why. In the meantime, unless the Steelers can develop someone to play the interior, Sutton could be seeing himself play multiple positions on the defense, again, in 2021.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.