2017 South Side Questions: Will Cameron Sutton Be Activated This Season?

The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.

We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond as they develop, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: Will Cameron Sutton be activated to the 53-man roster at some point this season?

I’d like to place a caveat on this question, specifying that his being made active does not hinge on another player on the roster suffering an injury that either sends him to injured reserve or makes him an expendable cut.

Cameron Sutton, the Steelers’ first of two third-round draft picks this year, originally made the 53-man roster as one of seven cornerbacks. Well, sort of. The thing is, the Steelers didn’t really have a 53-man roster when Sutton was moved to injured reserve.

Remember, Le’Veon Bell had a roster exemption, so for a time, they had 54 players on the roster. So because of that it’s much harder to forecast whom they might be willing to part with if they were to activate a seventh cornerback.

The reality is that the team already has one cornerback in Brian Allen who is mostly a weekly inactive. He would be a, if not the, prime candidate for release if they want to put Sutton on the 53-man roster, and then they would have to expose him to waivers. They lost Al-Hajj Shabazz off waivers late in the season last year.

The Steelers started the clock on Sutton if, for nothing else, to give him the opportunity to practice in-season and prepare physically for a game, even if he doesn’t ever actually make it onto the roster in 2017. Of course, he will be in their 2018 plans.

But there is no obvious room for him at the moment. He is not going to take a starting spot over from Artie Burns or Joe Haden, and there is no reason to think he will immediately challenge Mike Hilton in the slot. William Gay’s veteran presence is an asset in his rare dime snaps.

If Sutton is not activated this year, it won’t be because he’s not healthy, or because they don’t think he can play. It will just be that they have a crowded room that has already held down the fort for half of the season. An injury could change things, but if not, there is no guarantee we see him in a uniform this year.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Z Vranic RMT

    I wouldn’t expose Brian Allen. He would be grabbed by another team just because of his potential. The only CB I would be willing to lose is Sensabaugh. He doesn’t fit into rhe long term plans and doesn’t play much now.

  • Steeler Nation!

    Could be Sensabaugh. Or could come from another position. Either way, I hope he shows enough in practice that we activate him. I know we held the Lions out of the EZ, but would still like to upgrade our talent and flexibility in the back end.

  • Iulo

    Agree with both… Allen must stay.. he has not only potential… he is contributing already in ST. Sensabaugh is a very limited player. You can go for ShadeTree or another one.. I would prefer also to have such a flexible and talented player in the roster, it doesn’t matter if this year he is only a backup…. but you must understand, right now there is no place for Sutton on the defense…
    So if Sutton is going to be activated, he better does it on the ST…. by contributing there with tackles, plays, returns, and so on….
    that’s what I think and what I sense from people from inside and I mean here reporters, coaches, etc…

  • steelburg

    I think he will be activated at some point in the season. I think that Sensabaugh makes the most sense to cut but I also wouldn’t be surprised if they went with someone like big Dan, or Fort who has already been cut once before this year. But we have the luxury of letting Sutton develop slowly. We aren’t in rush like we have been with CB’s for the past 5 years or so. But I think they will activate him at some point just so it won’t be a lost season for him. I think like this if they were not going to activate him they wouldn’t be wasting time trying to bring him back from IR just to make him an every week inactive, that makes no sense.

  • francesco

    If he is a better tackling CB than ABurns then you put him in.

  • Ichabod

    Yes

  • Jaybird

    Sutton has missed too much camp, preseason, and regular season to just expect him to get up to speed and fit into this defense. It’s not like he’s a vet like joe Haden, Cam is a rookie who missed too much time. Let him practice a little then shelve him on IR for next year.

  • Sam Clonch

    Think it’s most likely he sits the year. Even if they activate him, he’s not going to see any real number of defensive snaps. MAYBE and handful of STs snaps. Not worth the risk of exposing Allen, or cutting down the vet experience of cutting Gay/Coty. Fort isn’t getting cut, would leave ILB only 3 deep.

  • steelburg

    What is the purpose of that? Bring him back let him practice a few weeks then put him back on IR. That absolutely makes no sense a few weeks of practice would do nothing for his development.

  • LucasY59

    Unless there is an injury to one of the other CBs I dont really see a need to activate Cam this yr

  • Steeler Nation!

    I don’t know. He’s got alot of experience coming in, unlike Burns did. And coaches and players alike seem to think that he is a highly cerebral player. Not only does he understand what his role would be, but he understands the big picture of where everyone should be. After last Sunday’s showing, I could see him getting some trial by fire snaps. If we are going to transition to playing more man in situations, a younger guy could be taking some snaps away from Will Gay.

  • LucasY59

    and what would be the purpose of activating him? like Jaybird said he has missed too much time already to contribute as a rookie so all he will be doing is sitting on the bench (most likely as an inactive on gameday) they have enough CBs right now and arent going to give practice snaps to a rookie who isnt going to contribute, there wont be much development of him this season so he might as well go to the IR

  • LucasY59

    I agree on Sensabaugh being the likely player cut, they seem to have good depth at CB so having Coty isnt that useful (and either Allen or Sutton could play STs) but the Steelers seem to stick with Vets over rookies more often than not, so I think Sutton will take Sensabaughs spot next yr, and Cam goes back to the IR after the 2-4 weeks he has to practice before they have to make the decision

  • LucasY59

    I agree even though Allen is inactive most Sundays I think either he or Sutton could fill his ST role and make Sensabaugh expendable, and I would much rather keep the young guys for the future than a guy that isnt likely to be on the team next season (even if he has a yr remaining on his contract, they could/should drop him to help pay the 2nd yr of Haden’s contract and make room for Sutton and Allen)

  • Spencer Krick

    Is Hawkins’ health still an issue? Could he be moved to IR?

  • jsteeler72

    I would like to see him activated for special teams. He can return punts. More importantly he has experience on the back end. I would like to see him active and taking reps at FS. He is a good enough tackler and better ball skills. He has said he knows every position on the back end and maybe he is the next man up at FS. He might be a little small though. Does anyone know how he measures up to Ryan Clark.

  • Jaybird

    I hear ya man but Sutton is a rookie and he’s barely practiced with the rest of the guys. Look how rusty Bell, the O line, and Bryant looked after missing a lot of camp. I would think it would be ten times harder for a rookie to catch up.
    Do not get me wrong – I hope Sutton has a bright future with us- I see no reason why he won’t- but I can’t see a rookie stepping in and picking things up and meshing with the defense after missing SOOO much time.

  • Jaybird

    My thoughts exactly.

  • Steeler Nation!

    Wishful thinking on my part probably. But if we ever go to more man heavy schemes, I don’t see why he couldn’t be useful over a 32 year old. I like Will Gay, but his best days are behind him. When it comes time for Patriot Games, any and all options should be on the table.

  • Jaybird

    In the past teams used to stash “healthy”players on IR all the time. I’ve heard plenty of stories of joe Gibbs doing that.
    If Sutton can’t contribute , then let him practice a little then IR him. A few weeks of practice is better than nothing. Hell be that much better for next year .
    If Sutton impresses , then keep him on the 53 and waive some one else. But don’t keep him on the roster just because a he’s s third round pick. If he can’t contribute better than what we already got, then IR him . This team is too good and too legit a contender to have guys on the 52 who can’t contribute or are a liability if they actually had to play.
    I just want the 53 best guys out there , I don’t care who they are.

  • Jaybird

    I think Sutton might be a better athlete than Gay at this point in there careers, but at less than gay knows this system inside and out. Coachs always say the time to learn and teach is in preseason, not during the regular season. I wish cam much success, I just think he’d be a liability to the secondary at this point.

  • #beatthepats

    Find a spot for him, punt return ability , smarts, and he made nice plays on the ball in preseason. Hilton is very small need a good backup for him. You cannot take the field agian with gay and Mitchell against Brady.

  • steelburg

    Your slightly missing my point. They clearly have a plan to have him contribute in some way whether that be special teams or taking some dime snaps from Gay. Why even go through the process of trying to bring him back? They haven’t designated him as a return IR player so that he could be inactive every week. You also have to keep in mind the Golson situation he missed 2 years with injury. I think they could be thinking let’s get him on the field no matter how small the role just so we don’t have a similar situation where we have 1 of our top 3 picks miss a whole year again.

  • steelburg

    So why are they bring him back? They aren’t bringing him back to practice for just 3 weeks. If you told me that they were bringing him back just so he could practice for the remainder of the year I could believe that just beacuse of how everything happened with Golson. So that extended practice time and not sitting on the shelf would be beneficial IMO. But I cant believe they tabbed him as there return IR player to just practice for a couple of weeks. That’s a waste and doesn’t make any sense.

  • steelburg

    I agree i want the 53 best guys too. Do you really believe that they don’t intend to use him? They have already went through the trouble of designating him there player to return from IR, and you believe they have done that to put him back on IR in 3 weeks? If the Golson sitting on IR the last 2 years had never happened I agree they should just let him stay on IR. But I cant see with Golson fresh on there minds how they are going to let another top 3 pick miss another full season because of injury it’s not happening IMO.

  • dany

    if so, the steelers have been carrying 9 linemen lately so they would likely sign another one. As it is, they have had injury troubles already with Gilbert and Foster and they already lost the famous Mihalik

  • dany

    What does Sensabaugh do on ST? If Sutton can replicate that then he’s gone. It’s not like he’s the first CB off the bench, that’s likely Gay whether it’s inside or outside. Two injuries, hell let the rookie in

  • Sam Clonch

    Why did they call Revis when he became a FA? Because they could, and the Steelers generally always like to cover all their bases. Not everything has a grand strategy behind it.

  • Sam Clonch

    He is not yet designated as a IR return yet. He gets to practice for these 3 weeks before they have to make that decision.
    As Tomlin would say, you’re living in your fears by continuing to compare him to Golson’s situation. Tomlin doesn’t roll like that.

  • Spencer Krick

    Fair enough.

  • Obi Ryn Denobi

    You hit it on both Allen and Sensabaugh, although Mike Hilton clearly beat both. I’m not sure I’d mess with this lovely little bit of something remotely resembling depth at this position in how many years? Not until the calender forces your hand, because the league is practically foaming at the mouth for healthy corners this time of year.

    Anything you put on the wire now is gone. Too much need. In fact, the yearly practice squad robbing season is about here.

    And one collision on a pick..! STALL!

  • steelburg

    Are you serious? First off that is now where near the same situation and the grand strategy behind calling him should have been obvious. The CB’s we had at the time sucked and we were in desperate need of a number 1 CB. They were hoping that he would take a team friendly deal for them considering he is from Pittsburgh and played his college ball there. They were hoping for a Joe Haden like deal with him but he wanted top dollar. So there was a grand strategy behind that. Bring Sutton back from IR to practice for 3 weeks makes little sense so I expect them to find a role or and a spot on the roster for him the FO doesn’t normally make moves that don’t add up They Are trying to get this guy some playing time this year even if it’s just special teams duty.

  • Sam Clonch

    Doubtful. He doesn’t offer any upgrade, and tons of potential liabilities. During the season isn’t the time to learn. He’s too far behind the curve to help.

  • steelburg

    Living in your fears would be keeping this guy on IR and playing it safe as to not shake up the back end CB depth because we haven’t had any issues with the cornerbacks, which is what you and some of the others want to happen. But making those back end CB’s the 4th, 5th, and 6th guy compete for a spot for the next 3 weeks is going against the grain and not living in your fears.

  • Jaybird

    It’s not that I think the Steelers don’t intend on using Sutton. It’s just that he’s missed so much time and he’s a rookie , so I think he is just too far behind to catch up to the ” moving train” as Tomlin would say. Plus are secondary is much better and much deeper this year than years past , so it not as imperative to get him out there .

  • steelburg

    Any teams 4th, 5th and 6th CB is a liability. Your looking at it purely from a defensive stand point this guy was also at one point one of the best PR in college football. He would be able to help in that area also.

  • Sam Clonch

    I see. You’re same, it’s everyone else who’s crazy, lol.

  • steelburg

    I agree. But I just don’t think they would even go through all this and not bring the guy back. I think if Sutton stays healthy during this 3 week practice span he will take someones spot on the 53 man roster I think the time he missed won’t make a difference if he stays healthy during these next 3 weeks.

  • Sam Clonch

    Have a rookie start fielding kicks at mid season after not practicing it (or at all) for months? What could go wrong! Browns been doing great at it recently after not repping it at all during the pre-season, right?

  • steelburg

    I’m just saying I don’t think they would go through the motions of bring him back and practicing him which would take reps from other guys for nothing that doesn’t make much sense to me. Does it to you? I mean the back end guys on the depth chart don’t get much reps anyway so is he going to watch for 3 weeks? He is going to take some reps from someone during practice I think they intend on getting a good look at him during these next 3 weeks.

  • steelburg

    I agree that using him there wouldn’t be wise, I also agree that bring him back isn’t wise and the move doesn’t make much sense IMO. I say all that to say that that’s why I think they will put him on the roster because I don’t think they would go through the motions to have him practice and stuff just for nothing. I also think they could easily replace Coty’s production he only has 3 special teams tackles.

  • Sam Clonch

    I don’t think took as much effort as you seem to think. Colbert just told some minion to submit some paperwork to the league, and boom. Done. It’s not like they chose him over anyone else. Adams would be only other possibility, but he’s a prototype for the practice squad, so no point. It was Cam or no one, and now or never. When Colbert asked Tomlin about it, I’d bet $100 he said “meh, sure, I’ll kick the tires”. I’m positive he hasn’t been counting the days in anticipation.

  • Matthew Marczi

    No, he’s been healthy for most of the season. Just fallen behind on the depth chart.

  • Matthew Marczi

    He covers kicks and is a jammer on the punt return unit.

  • steelburg

    I’m speaking about interrupting the process for the players as far as having another player come in and take reps away from guys. Of course the procedural part of it was easy.

  • LucasY59

    I think they want to see what he can do, but now they have 2 return designations a season and Cam is really the only candidate to even try to use one on right now so they might as well see where he is at, but at the same time I dont see a real need to do so either so Im not sure why they did it

  • curtis williams

    Anybody can cover and tackle better than Burns. He needs to be cut