Offseason Program

Ready for anything

The Steelers have been kicking the tires on hybrids ever since last season ended, and when they get to training camp in July they'll continue the process of evaluation through extensive test drives.

Head coach Mike Tomlin has always valued position flexibility. But heading into 2018 there's a pronounced emphasis on cornerbacks capable of playing outside or in the slot, safeties that can handle playing center field or in the box, on the left side of the field or the right, and especially on safeties who are also considered linebacker-capable in sub-package alignments.

Second-year cornerback Cameron Sutton doesn't have an issue with any of it, and has no problem whatsoever identifying the position at which he'll best fit in.

"Defensive back," Sutton insisted.

The rest, Sutton maintained, is just details.

"You never limit yourself," he continued. "I've never heard guys just say, 'I play one position.' I've never heard a (wide) receiver just say, 'I play one spot,' or, 'I'm an outside receiver,' or 'I'm an inside receiver.'

"The more you can do, the more opportunity you make for yourself, situations you can put yourself in to make plays and help the team be successful."

Sutton expects the more-you-can-do mandate to translate into "being able to show my versatility playing inside, outside, safety, 'dime,' 'nickel,' whatever, understanding the playbook, knowing what's going on out on the field.

"That just creates opportunity," he continued as mandatory veteran minicamp was in the process of winding down. "Football is football at the end of the day. Wherever they need me to line up, whatever's going to help the defense be successful and get the ball back for our offense, that's what matters."

Sutton arrived last season as a third-round draft pick with a reputation for understanding what every position on the defense was expected to do on a given snap.

The Steelers participate in the 2018 minicamp at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

He opened his rookie campaign on the reserve-injured list and wasn't active until the Steelers' game on Dec. 4 at Cincinnati.

But Sutton was still able to show enough in the six games he wound up playing to convince the coaches a more prominent or a more versatile role for him for this season is worth exploring.

Defining responsibilities for multi-faceted defensive backs such as Sutton is on the Steelers' to-do list heading into training camp in July.

"I hear something new every day," he said. "I really don't know, to be honest. I've heard every position you could think of. Wherever they need me at, that's fine with me. Whatever gives me the opportunity to be on the field and be productive and help this team, that's where I'll be at.

"I would say right now it's kinda week by week, day by day, really. We have our signature stuff, everyone has their base, their nickel, their sub-packages. But those things kinda change week in and week out. There might be a week where you have a great (running) back, you might want a DB covering him instead of a linebacker. It might change depending on gameplans and how teams try to attack us."

So there's uncertainty but also opportunity beckoning in Latrobe.

"It's very exciting," Sutton said.

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