PITTSBURGH — The preseason finale won’t determine Cam Sutton‘s spot on the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ roster.
The rookie cornerback is not going to get cut, especially after the Steelers invested a third-round draft pick on him this year. However, how well Sutton plays against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night could determine just how many snaps he gets in the regular-season opener Sept. 10 against the Browns in Cleveland.
Sutton missed the first three weeks of training camp with a lower body injury and sat out the first two exhibition games. He made his debut last Saturday in a 19-15 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Heinz Field.
“I thought that he did a solid job in some instances,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “Obviously he’s got a lot of ground to make up and next week is going to be huge for him. It was huge for him, though, to get out there and get his feet wet and show that it wasn’t too big for him in some instances.”
The Steelers drafted Sutton with the idea he could provide immediate help. Though the Steelers signed Joe Haden on Wednesday after he was cut by the Cleveland Browns to play the right corner opposite Artie Burns, Sutton could unseat slot corner William Gay.
Sutton played outside and in the slot against the Colts and made two big plays. On his first snap, he broke up a pass. Later, Sutton threw running back Marlon Mack for a 3-yard loss on one of his three tackles.
“I felt like it was a start,” Sutton said. “It is something that I just need to be consistent and build off it, learn from the mistakes that I had out there and just be ready for the season.”
While Sutton went through OTAs and minicamp as well as a few practices before his preseason debut, he admitted that getting game action made him finally feel like a professional football player.
“I was kind of in the moment,” Sutton said. “It’s obviously surreal just being out there, having the opportunity just to say, ‘you’re in the NFL,’ and then just being out there with a great group of guys. And then, especially, to make a play on my first play out there, definitely a surreal moment. It’s something I just have to keep building off of.”
He will get that chance Thursday night and is eager to continue to make up for lost time while also becoming more comfortable with the speed of the pro game.
“You start to slow the game down,” Sutton said. “You can’t just go out there and try to guard every route or try to decipher every play. You have to kind of limit things down, know what the other guys are thinking and doing out there on the field. And then see ball, get ball, have fun and just fly around.”
Sutton will likely have a chance to show his versatility again against the Panthers. He also played safety in college at Tennessee and could see time there with the Steelers.
“Just whatever,” Sutton said. “I can just take all the special team reps (too). It wouldn’t matter to me. I just like to be on the field.”