Short of James Conner and Benny Snell, nobody got their hands on the ball for the Pittsburgh Steelers as much as did third-year cornerback Cameron Sutton on Sunday night. Not only did he have an interception and two passes defenses, he also recovered an onside kick attempt on special teams.
It was perhaps the best game of his still relatively young career, and one in which the Steelers had to call upon him to play a number of different roles. Already without Steven Nelson during the game, they also lost Joe Haden late in the proceedings, so that thrust Sutton into starting duty on the boundary, where he had previously lined up in the slot, as the dimebacker, and even on the back end.
“It’s just the next man up”, he told Kevin Gorman of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review about his ability to take advantage of the situation. “When opportunity presents itself, you’ve just got to be ready to go in there and make the play.
And he did, of course, often in big moments. One of his passes defensed came on a throw that was in the end zone. He saved a potential touchdown there. Then, after the Los Angeles Chargers had scored to make it 24-17, they attempted an onside kick, and Sutton was the one to go up and get it.
That put the ball back in the hands of the offense, but Los Angeles still had three timeouts, and Devlin Hodges and company were not able to generate a first down, so the Chargers got another chance. But Sutton slammed the door shut with a game-sealing interception on second down.
“Credit to the guys around me, obviously, having confidence in me”, he said of being in position to make that play in the first place. “Not just in me. Everyone played well in all three phases. We really played complementary football, and that’s what it’s all about”.
It was the biggest play certainly of his career to date, but what does the future hold? Even though he has a role as a dime defender—and even then not all the time, as safety Kameron Kelly also gets on the field—he still doesn’t appear to have much opportunity for upward mobility.
That’s not what he’s focused on, though. The Volunteer has always been a team-oriented guy, so he has focused on team-oriented goals, and one of the goals for the defense has been to close out games better. He held them do that on Sunday.
“Our defense had been standing up all night when we had to”, he told Gorman, on a night on which they took the ball away three times. “I’m not saying we still don’t have a lot to work on, but it was great for us to close out that game and start moving in the right tracks”.