When free agency began this past March, the Pittsburgh Steelers made Cam Sutton one of their top priorities by re-signing him to a 2-year, $9 million contract on March 15th. After departures from both Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson, it was clear that Sutton would see an increase in playing time. Through one game in his first season as a full-time player, Sutton is already proving the Steelers right.
On Sunday, the former Tennessee Volunteer was a man on a mission. Sutton played a key role in slowing down Bills star receiver Stefon Diggs. On the very first third down play of the game for the Bills offense, Josh Allen wasted no time going after him. With five yards to go and already in the red zone, Sutton was matched up with Diggs in man-to-man coverage and won the rep. There was little separation leaving Diggs to look at the official and request a holding penalty, but an incompletion got the Steelers' defense off of the field.
Later on, in the first quarter, Buffalo was looking for a home run as they drew up a flea-flicker play in Steelers territory. Sutton wasn't fooled. He stayed on Diggs upfield shoulder, once Diggs dropped his weight to break outside, he hit a beautiful speed turn to accelerate through the ball for a PBU. This was teach-tape type of stuff from the fifth year corner as he once again got his defense off of the field, forcing the punt.
Perhaps the biggest play that Sutton made during the game wasn't one that he made in coverage. On fourth down and one, Sutton sniffed out a trick play to Matt Breida as he came in flying through the backfield to make the stop. Sutton credited his film study for knowing what to expect on the play. A conversion on the play would have gotten Buffalo pretty close to field goal range, but instead, Sutton got the defense off the field, again.
On the rare occasions where Sutton wasn't able to win the rep, he still showed capable by being in the right position. Gabrielle Davis did score a touchdown against him down in the red zone. However, he had great coverage on the play, it was simply a perfect throw by Josh Allen.
If he gets his head around a split second faster, he might have been able to make a play on the football. Offenses get paid to make plays, too. Great quarterbacks will sometimes beat great coverage and you live with those reps as a defender.
One of the things that makes Sutton even more valuable is his versatility. On tape, you will see him slide inside into the slot, play some dime backer and even rotate deep as a safety in zone coverage. The Steelers did a nice job disguising their coverages on Sunday to try and confuse Josh Allen and Sutton was a huge factor there as a chess piece. Sutton is a smart player with a high football IQ, which is a huge asset to both Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler.
It will be interesting to see Sutton's development as a first-time, full-time player in this Steelers defense. With questions surrounding Joe Haden's future in Pittsburgh after 2021, the team is really relying on Sutton to be a long-term answer at the corner position. If Sunday was any indication, one has to assume that they are pretty confident in his ability.
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