During his entire college career at the University of Tennessee, Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton allowed a total of three touchdowns.
His positional versatility and his ability to lockdown some of the best receivers in his conference at the time, are some of the reasons why the Steelers selected him in the third round of the 2017 draft.
During his tenure, Sutton has played special teams and has been given some opportunities to play in his position, when injuries plagued the secondary. Yet despite the promise he has shown since being drafted, Sutton has received limited snaps on defense. Since his draft year, the Steelers have drafted and signed additional cornerbacks to their roster, and at one point, Sutton seemed like an afterthought.
Sunday's performance against the Los Angeles Chargers was his breakout performance on a national stage. What made it even more impressive, was his ability to make plays in different spots in the secondary. In a game where several players performed at a high level, Sutton's timely plays not only preserved their victory, it gave their team new life heading into their bye week.
Playmaker In The Slot
Sutton is not a flashy defender, but he is as technically sound as they come.
In this situation, Sutton is seen positioned at the slot position in press coverage. Across from him is Chargers receiver Mike Williams, who stands 6'4 and proved to be a difficult task for the Steelers secondary. What is worthwhile noting, is how Sutton positioned in a such way that he can view both Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and his assignment. When the ball is snapped, Sutton quickly flips his hips and shadows Williams running his slant inside. When the ball is thrown his direction, Sutton makes a timely play on the ball resulting in an incomplete pass.
Pass Defended In The End Zone
At 5'11, Sutton is considered slightly below average size for his position, yet he possesses two attributes that allow him to overcome a deficit in size; length and technique
In this end zone situation, Sutton is seen positioned on the outside across a much bigger receiver in Williams. The likely expectation in this instance, was to exploit Sutton's lack of size to their advantage. When the ball is snapped, Williams will run his route slightly on the outside, with the purpose of having enough space to make a play on the ball. The problem in this case, Williams was not on the same page with Rivers, as he was unaware the ball was released before he could turn and make a play. Sutton on the other hand, was very aware of when the ball released, and played it perfectly by positioning himself between his man and the direction of the ball.
Note the manner in which he was able to fight off Williams with his right arm, and break up the pass with his left.
Game Winning Interception
With the game winding in the balance, it was Sutton that was able to deliver the final blow needed to preserve the lead and win the contest.
In this case, Sutton is positioned at the strong safety position on the right side across from Williams. Considering the circumstances surrounding this play, a first down would have given the Chargers another chance to drive down the field, as they had been effective in doing so throughout the fourth quarter. Before the ball is even snapped, it was clear Rivers was looking to go in Williams direction. Sutton to his credit, had his eye on Rivers well before the snap. When the ball is thrown, it sails out of Williams reach. In Sutton's case, he had the ball tracked right from the release and able to make the interception.
One of the underrated aspects of Sutton is his ball skills. As we saw in his game-saving interception in week one last season against the Cleveland Brown, Sutton has a natural ability to track a ball while it is in the air and make plays.
With injuries piling up on the defensive side of the ball, these next few games will present more opportunities for Sutton to establish himself as more than a reserve player on the roster. His ability to put together the type of performance, he did Sunday, was three seasons in making and it was well worth the wait.