2021 was a year of firsts for the Pittsburgh Steelers, no matter what side of the ball we are discussing. On offense, the Steelers drafted four rookies that saw significant time on the field as starters throughout the year and all made significant long lasting impressions on the organization and fanbase. On the defensive side of the football, although we did not see many rookies have a significant impact in their first year, we did see cornerback Cam Sutton make a significant impact in the secondary in his first full season as the starter, after losing both Mike Hilton in free agency and releasing Steven Nelson before the season began.
In Sutton’s first season starting alongside cornerback Joe Haden, he started in all of 16 games, forcing 1 fumble and intercepting 2 passes, totaling 52 tackles on the season. This was by far Sutton’s biggest workload since entering the league back in 2017. In 2021, he totaled 1,089 defensive snaps, which is only a total of 77 more snaps he has played throughout his whole 4 year career so far combined (1,166 total snaps), and he certainly made the most of it. It was obvious during last year’s off-season process that this team was putting a good amount of faith in Sutton’s performance after they decided on signing him to an extension, rather than extending the more experienced slot corner in Mike Hilton. Many people were disappointed initially, but Sutton’s overall play this season should have the organization excited for the future for him in this secondary.
It sounds like, due to being on the football field more, that Sutton is going to take the experience that he has gained throughout this season and use that to his advantage as he prepares for the new upcoming 2022 campaign. Playing in more overall defensive snaps in just this one season than any of his previous seasons combined, there are going to be things he has learned this past year that only experience can teach. A theory that Sutton himself has vocalized:
“Just the total [snaps], obviously, this has been my biggest year of workload, playing over 1,000 snaps, which I know I’m more than capable of doing,” he said. “You’re not going to be the best at something only seeing it one time, only a few times. You master those things within continuous repetition and seeing those things.”
“It’s only going to diversify and make me better as a player. It’ll make me better as a leader.”
“Being able to do that this year on a consistent level, a consistent basis, down in, down out. I might not have been at corner the whole time but just on a consistent level of just seeing a game, gaining more knowledge, being more situationally aware, just seeing how teams are trying to schematically attack us, situational things that happen throughout the curse of the game, whether it was early or towards the latter part of the game. That was a big learning curve for me.”
Since being drafted by the Steelers back in 2017, Sutton has been highly regarded and has found success being used in multiple positions in the secondary. That in itself means that he is a versatile player who can be useful in multiple, if not, all situations defensively throughout a game. This makes Sutton somewhat of a staple on this Steelers defense, at least for the time being. This Steelers secondary might look a little different going into the 2022 season however as fellow cornerbacks Haden and Ahkello Witherspoon are both free agents that are set to hit the market this off-season. The Steelers plans for what to do at the cornerback position still remain in question, but as of now, Sutton is one of the go-to guys on this secondary and will potentially be looked upon in a bigger role for the upcoming year.
“You come into each and every year with that fundamental base, our identity, who we are as a team, who we are as a defense, our principles, what makes Steeler brand of football. And from that you’re able to diversity and build for the long fight.”
WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE : https://www.steelers.com/news/experience-is-the-best-teacher
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