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Steelers OTAs Takeaways: Cam Sutton’s Role Revealed, Arthur Smith Lands Rave Reviews

Cam Sutton returns in a certain role while Arthur Smith’s offense continues to draw some rave reviews from around Steelers camp.

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Steelers CB Cam Sutton
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cam Sutton during a game against the Buffalo Bills at Heinz Field on Dec. 15, 2019. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — Two days of OTAs this week and two days of Cams returning to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. On Wednesday, it was Cam Sutton, who the team brought back on a veteran minimum contract. And with that, that is about as much spice as the third week of offseason training activities will bring. This is the time of year when chemistry building is far more important than anything else, and with a new offense and quarterbacks, it reflects. But the Steelers secondary has some of that, too, with Sutton back into the fold.

Pittsburgh Steelers Cam Sutton

Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cam Sutton at practice at OTAs, June 6, 2024 – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

THE PLAN FOR CAM

So far, Cam Sutton is not sure what the Steelers have planned for him other than that he will be used all over the secondary. Sutton stated that he signed on without expectations of a role this season, but it would be a mild upset to see Sutton not win the team’s starting slot cornerback role.

That’s where Minkah Fitzpatrick sees Sutton sliding right into the defense. During his previous tenure with the Steelers, Sutton played at slot cornerback, outside cornerback, safety, and dimebacker. All of that makes him a chess piece that can be utilized to unlock other players.

“He adds experience, is a versatile player who can play corner, nickel, dime or safety if he had to,” Fitzpatrick said. “It adds up to another chess piece on the chessboard.”

There are no expectations for Sutton. Without a specific role, the Steelers are going to throw Sutton into a slot cornerback battle that includes Josiah Scott, Beanie Bishop, and Thomas Graham. Newly signed defensive back Grayland Arnold should also project into that battle. While the likely favorite due to his familiarity with the defense and previous level of play, Sutton has to earn that opportunity.

“No expectations,” Sutton said. “It’s coming here and grinding, doing what I can to give myself opportunities.”

If he does win the job as expected, he will likely take the reins as a sub-package chess piece. That could help reverberate for Fitzpatrick, DeShon Elliott, and others as versatile weapons for defensive coordinator Teryl Austin on the defense’s back end.

Pittsburgh Steelers Cb Beanie Bishop

Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Beanie Bishop during OTAs at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, May 21, 2024. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

BEANIE BISHOP STICKS OUT

Let’s stick to the topic of slot cornerbacks. If you gave me one rookie to name that has consistently stood out thus far at OTAs, I would tell you the answer is Beanie Bishop. For one, I am not including guys like Troy Fautanu, Zach Frazier, Mason McCormick, and Payton Wilson in these declarations. How can you evaluate offensive linemen and linebackers without pads? To me, that is hard. But of the rookies I can determine more fairly, there is no question that the quickest riser is Bishop.

“I like to hit guys in the mouth. A lot of receivers don’t like to play like that. There are a lot of receivers who are pretty and stuff like that. I don’t like to be a pretty player. I’m one of those nasty and physical guys. I play with an edge to my game, and I’m fearless,” Bishop said.

Bishop has competed with everyone the team has thrown his way at a high level. While he might talk a lot about coming downhill and tackling, watching Bishop stand out in coverage has been just as impressive. I have long held Bishop in high regard for all the right reasons. He has proven the doubters wrong at every spot of the way. If there is an undrafted free agent who will make this team, I sincerely believe that it will end up being Bishop.

Pittsburgh Steelers Arthur Smith

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Arthur Smith during OTAs on May 21, 2024. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

SMITH GIVING DEFENSE FITS

There’s no question that at this point in the calendar, the Steelers’ defense is way ahead of the Steelers’ offense. With a new offensive coordinator, all new quarterbacks, four new wide receivers, and three new offensive linemen, it’s going to take some time for those white-shirted units to mesh in a practice setting.

So even though the non-contact nature of OTAs generally favors the offense, Teryl Austin’s unit has been clearly the more game-ready group.

But that doesn’t mean the offense hasn’t caused its share of problems. The system run by new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith uses a variety of changes in tempo, shifts, and motions to keep defenses off balance, stress communication, and take some of the more complicated coverages and schemes away from defensive coordinators.

At OTAs on Tuesday, Smith used pace and a shift to cause a miscommunication in the Steelers’ defense, getting Dez Fitzpatrick open in the end zone behind Elandon Roberts and DeShon Elliott.

“It’s no secret how creative Arthur can be,” Roberts said. “I think it’s good for us as a defense, because it challenges our communication and makes us be aware of certain things. It makes us not B.S. Sometimes, you can go through the motions. You’re a defense that knows each other. So you start going through the motions and then you play a team that’s like this and you’re like, ‘Oh shit.’

“We’re seeing all this now. And don’t get me wrong, sometimes they come slow out the huddle, but you’ve got to anticipate them coming out like they do, with shifts, motions, weird formations, unfamiliar formations on the boundary. You’ve gotta be ready for all of those types of situations.”

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Quez Watkins

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Quez Watkins at the team’s OTAs, May 30, 2024 – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

LONG BALL CONNECTION

Russell Wilson has always been known as a quarterback with a nice deep ball, and he’s already growing a connection in finding wide receiver Quez Watkins deep down the field early in OTAs with the Steelers. Watkins hauled in another long one on Wednesday, something he’s been doing throughout OTAs.

“I told him, the goal is for you to over-throw me,” Watkins said. “Once you over-throw me, then we can talk.”

Has that happened yet?

“Not yet. So hopefully, we can keep that up. Everything’s been good timing so far.”

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