PITTSBURGH — The Steelers’ slot cornerback situation has certainly been a whirlwind throughout training camp, and now through their last preseason game. With both Antoine Brooks Jr. and now Arthur Maulet down and on the shelf, they have given other players the opportunity to slide inside and begin working in the slot.
The first of those moves has been kicking Cam Sutton inside with James Pierre playing on the outside. While the Steelers have certainly always been confident in Sutton who played in the slot the last few seasons as the team’s primary Dime defensive back, they wanted to get other players the first looks at that spot. Now, they are beginning to work him up to speed in case they need him in that capacity once the regular season begins.
“We hadn’t focused on that element of it because that’s what we know,” head coach Mike Tomlin said after practice on Monday. “We know Cam is inside capable, so we spent some time focusing on others. But as we get towards the end, we need to tool him up and get him ready to go as an option in that space, and that’s why we’re having the discussion.”
Sutton has played outside, in the slot, and at dimebacker all throughout training camp. While the Steelers have not done a ton of dime just yet and have seldom played it in the preseason, the rotation of how that works out in the dime is yet to be seen. Still, Tomlin says that Sutton’s intellect is what separates him and allows him to do the role seamlessly.
“It’s very easy for him. But difficult for others,” Tomlin said. “But that’s one of the things that attracted us to him even going back to the draft process. We often laugh about the night before his pro day in Knoxville. We were blown away by his football intellect and that’s proven to be true over the course of his time here.”
While the Steelers are unsure of just how the rotation will work out just yet, Tomlin is not closing the door on Pierre getting the outside snaps in nickel. Still, he will not subscribe to it just yet and believes Pierre still has to show a little bit more.
“We’re still squirreling those nuts,” Tomlin said. “He’s got another big game. He got some practice this week, he, and others. He and [Justin] Layne are doing a good job. We’ll keep watching.”
However the Steelers’ slot cornerback rotation works out, they will need to decide soon. With Brooks still working his way back and now Maulet sidelined, it complicates matters. But there is a two-week layoff between the final game against Carolina and their Week One matchup against Buffalo. This situation could be one that, quite literally, goes down to the wire.