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How Cam Sutton took Round 2 against the Bills

After highlighting Cam Sutton against the Bills in Week 14 of 2020, he showed marked improvement the next this time in Buffalo.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers got their 2021 season started in the right way as they defeated the Buffalo Bills on the road in a game where they were significant underdogs. With only four regular season and post season games in between the last time these two teams squared off, the Steelers team who defeated the Bills this time around had a number of the same pieces from the 2020 matchup.

After the Bills game in Week 14 of 2020, the Steelers Vertex article focused on the small adjust made a halftime where the Bills got wide receiver Stephon Diggs matched up more on Cameron Sutton in the third quarter and it proved to be the difference in the game. So how did Sutton do this time when facing the Bills?

Let’s get a quick reminder of where this nerdiness is coming from.

Vertex- a single point where two or more lines cross.

Sometimes to make a great point, it takes two different systems of analysis to come together and build off each other in order to drawl a proper conclusion. In this case, the two methods are statistical analysis and film breakdown. Enter Dave Schofield (the stat geek) and Geoffrey Benedict (the film guru) to come together to prove a single point based on our two lines of thinking.

Here comes the breakdown from two different lines of analysis.


The Stats Line:

Last season we outlined the matchup with the Buffalo Bills and the success Stefon Diggs had during the game. In 2020, Diggs was targeted 14 times with 10 receptions and 130 yards with a touchdown. This season, Diggs was targeted 14 times once again and had nine receptions but this time it was for only 69 yards and no touchdowns.

Since this article is not nearly about Diggs but about Cameron Sutton, let’s get on to how he played last season versus this season against the Bills. According to Pro Football Focus, Sutton had a 51.5 overall score and a 52.4 coverage score last season against Buffalo where he had two tackles and three missed tackles. In the passing game, PFF had Sutton being targeted six times with three receptions for 23 yards and no touchdowns and giving up a passer rating of 59.7 when targeted. But looking solely a PFF, it appears several receptions were credited to Minkah Fitzpatrick which others could argue where really on Sutton.

This season, Cameron Sutton had a much higher overall PFF grade against the Bills with a 77.8 and a 74.5 coverage score. This time, Suttonm had five tackles with no missed tackles and was credited with giving up five receptions for 32 yards and a touchdown. Additionally, Sutton had a passer rating against him of 120.2 for the game.

So what’s the discrepancy between the statistics given up by Sutton and his scores in the game? Although the stats appear better in the previous matchup, his overall play was credited as being better in 2021. To make sense of all this, it’s time to check the film.


The Film Line:

Cameron Sutton did give up a number of receptions against the Bills, but very few yards. While we will talk about his play covering his own man, the right place to start covering Cameron Sutton is his fit in the Steelers schemes where he struggled last season when he was playing outside.

Cameron Sutton is the cornerback to the bottom of the screen.

Sutton is the outside corner on this play and Stefon Diggs is lined up close to the offensive line. When Sutton sees Diggs coming outside and Allen preparing to throw to him he breaks on the route and gets enough of Diggs to knock him down for a loss on the play. Sutton has been working on breaking on routes like this after not being very good at it in 2020 when he played outside. This growth in his game is a big part of the success the Steelers were able to have when the Bills were targeting #21 Tre Norwood early in the game.

Cameron Sutton is the cornerback to the bottom of the screen.

The handoff to the running back brings all eyes, and almost every player to the line. Stefon Diggs starts out jogging inside, hoping Sutton will concern himself more with the run play than with covering Diggs. It doesn’t work.

Sutton isn’t fooled and is waiting for Diggs to run his route. When Allen sees Diggs is covered he throws it short, underneath Sutton and Minkah Fitzpatrick. Sutton is able to break on the ball and defend the pass. A great play by Sutton to not fall for the cheese and to stay with Stefon Diggs to force fourth down.

Cameron Sutton is the cornerback to the top of the screen.

Sutton is dropping at the snap, keeping Stefon Diggs in front of him. When the Bills exploit that, Sutton is able to make the tackle at the catch point. The speed Sutton comes flying onto the screen to tackle Diggs is impressive. The Steelers made a point of denying yards after catch to the Bills receivers after they gave up 130 YAC in 2020, the downside is you give up more receptions with that strategy.

Cameron Sutton is the dime back, third DB from the top.

Gabriel Davis runs a nice route here, and after losing position at the cut, Sutton is able to recover and provide good coverage on his man. His good coverage lost to a great throw and the Bills came away with their only touchdown of the game. Sutton gave up several catches, but he made those throws and catches difficult. That’s all you can really ask for in the current NFL.

Cameron Sutton is the cornerback to the top of the screen.

This is a huge play. It’s a four point game, 4th and one and the Steelers hold the Bills scoreless. The Steelers almost never run a defense where a corner carries his man across the formation, and you can see how Sutton switches roles and Terrell Edmunds takes over the player in motion. Sutton is now responsible for sealing any play from getting outside of him, and he not only does that, he evades the fullback trying to block him and gets both hands on the back’s legs to bring him down. With Melvin Ingram having to account for Josh Allen’s ability as a runner, this play should work for Buffalo. All they need is that block to land on Sutton and it’s a first down.

Instead possession and momentum switched and the Steelers would march to score their only offensive touchdown of the game. That drive was followed by the Bills going three and out and the punt block for a touchdown to cap it. We can’t know what would happen if Sutton isn’t able to make this play, but we do know that this play was a major turning point in the Steelers win over Buffalo, just like the bills moving Stefon Diggs to Cameron Sutton’s side in 2020 was a turning point in their favor.


The Point:

The biggest thing with the film shown with Cam Sutton’s play has to be his quick reaction and speed to the ball. Sutton seemed to be flying to the right places in a lot of the clips and both got his hands on the ball and brought down the receiver quickly after the catch. If Sutton continues to play with this type of speed and reaction, teams won’t do what the Bills did in 2020 and specifically go after Sutton as a weak spot on the defense.