I was fortunate enough to be in Pittsburgh during the summer of 1989 when Terry Bradshaw and Mel Blount were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. My mom happened to be walking through the room when they were finishing a news segment on the ceremonies and asked, “What? Were Terry Bradshaw and Mel Blount BOTH quarterbacks?”
“No mom, Terry Bradshaw was the ‘quarterback,’ Mel Blount was a ‘cornerback’” I explained.
It is easy to see how the casual listener could confuse “quarterback” and “cornerback.” And while “cornerback” might not be as hard to play as “quarterback,” good cornerbacks can be pretty damn hard to find.
- The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t had a lot of success in finding cornerbacks via the NFL Draft.
They found one in Cam Sutton who is now set to become a free agent for the second time. Has he done enough for the Steelers to give him a third contract?
Capsule Profile of Cam Sutton Career with the Steelers
- But if you’re thinking that Cam Sutton looked like a disappointment in that interregnum you’re wrong.
The Steelers activated Sutton going into the 2017 road game against Cincinnati to bolster a secondary that was reeling without Joe Haden and with Artie Burns struggling. How much Sutton contributed is open to question as the Steelers lost Ryan Shazier that night, sending the defense into an total tailspin.
For the next three seasons, Cam Sutton appeared in all but one game, playing extensively on special teams and working in as a slot cornerback.
- At a glance, Sutton’s numbers from those three years fail to impress.
However, Sutton showed and ability to make plays at pivotal such as his interception which stopped a Browns drive and forced overtime in the ’18 opener. Or his on-sides kick recovery AND interception all within 37 seconds to end a Charger’s rally in 2019 or his interception that helped the Steelers go up 24 to zero against the Browns in 2020.
When the Steelers entered salary cap hell thanks to COVID, one of Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin’s first moves was to cut Steven Nelson and resign Cam Sutton, and he’s started 31 of a possible 34 games since then.
The Case for the Steelers Resigning Cam Sutton
The Steelers have invested heavily in Cam Sutton’s development who has made steady improvement since his rookie year. In 2022 he made 3 interceptions and defended a record 15 passes. Is this some guy you want to let walk? The Steelers have struggled to draft and develop cornerbacks but Cam Sutton is a success story here.
10 years ago the Steelers saw Keenan Lewis develop slowly until finally establishing himself as a starter. But the Steelers let Lewis walk due salary cap complications and because they believed that they had Cortez Allen waiting in the wings.
- Lewis walked and Allen floundered settling the franchise back immeasurably.
Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan must not make the same mistake with Sutton.
The Case Against the Steelers Resigning Cam Sutton
Yes, Cam Sutton is a good cornerback. But is he a great one? More importantly, does he deserve to be paid like one? According to Over the Cap Cam Sutton’s annual salary ranked him as 48th in the NFL last year.
A third contract will almost certainly need to put him in the top 32. They average about 7 million dollars a year in salary, 31 million in contract guarantees and 24 million in total guaranteed money.
Are you really ready to double Cam Sutton’s salary and guarantee him an 8 figure sum?
Curtain’s Call on the Steelers and Cam Sutton
Omar Khan said “We love and think very highly of Cam,” and indicated that negotiations have already started. Good. Because resigning Cam Sutton should be the Pittsburgh Steelers number one free agent priority in 2023. Sutton’s not a super star. He’s not a “shut down corner.” He’ll never be one. But he is a solid number 2 cornerback.
Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell compared him to Deshea Townsend. Townsend was another mid-round cornerback who took 4 or 5 season to work himself into a starting job as the number two corner. From there he helped the Steelers win Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII.
- The only real question mark here is Omar Khan.
Khan was decisive in getting extensions inked with Minkah Fitzpatrick and Chris Boswell last summer and then got creative with Diontae Johnson. He could have done the same with Sutton, but declined. He says he wants him back, and when Kevin Colbert made similar statements the player returned.
So let’s see if Khan follows suit.