With the 2022 season coming to a rather quick, disappointing end Sunday following a 28-14 win over the Cleveland Browns by the Pittsburgh Steelers, much of the attention and focus shifts to the offseason, starting Monday.
Players and coaches returned to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side Monday afternoon to go through season-ending exit meetings and interviews with the coaching staff, and for a few key pieces on the defense, their attention shifts to the offseason and free agency.
That includes veteran cornerback Cameron Sutton, who emerged as arguably the Steelers’ best cornerback on the season. Sutton, 27, will see his contract void on February 10, which will carry a $2.1M dead at that point for the 2023 season. Once it voids, he will then be scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March and should have a good market with which to work with coming off of the best season of his career.
According to Pro Football Focus, Sutton graded out at a 72.2 overall on the year in 931 snaps, the second-best grade of his career. His career-best grade came in 2019 when he recorded a 74.5 in just 268 snaps. Along with a very good grade overall from PFF, Sutton recorded 43 tackles and a career-high three interceptions for the Steelers, breakup up 15 passes on the season.
At just 27 years old, Sutton has a bright future ahead at the position entering free agency. Though a potential big pay day is right around the corner, Sutton isn’t focused on that foray into the free agency market for the second time in three years. Instead, he believes the Steelers should be playing this week after going 7-2 down the stretch and beating the Browns.
“I don’t even know nothing about that [free agency] process right now, even coming into it the last two years,” Sutton told reporters Monday, according to video via the Tribune-Review’s Chris Adamski. “We’ll see what that looks like. I feel like we should still be playing ball right now…”
Sutton added that “this is home” regarding Pittsburgh, according to a tweet from the Post-Gazette’s Ray Fittipaldo, and would like to remain in Pittsburgh.
Sutton, of course, signed a two-year deal ahead of the start of free agency in 2020, so he hasn’t truly experienced the free agency process yet. Still, that familiarity with Pittsburgh and his overall leadership and key role in the secondary in the Steel City remains rather appealing to the former third-round pick in 2017 out of Tennessee.
In six seasons with the Steelers, Sutton has been one of the biggest hits at the position in the draft for the black and gold. Sutton has played in 84 career games for the Steelers with 39 starts, recording 168 tackles, eight tackles for a loss, eight interceptions, 38 pass breakups, five forced fumbles and one fumble recovery during that stretch.
Entering the offseason, Sutton should be a priority for the Steelers considering the level he played at in 2022, emerging as arguably the true No. 1 corner for the Steelers, even after Pittsburgh threw a bunch of money at Ahkello Witherspoon and Levi Wallace in free agency last offseason, and traded for William Jackson III in season.
Based on how the Steelers handled Sutton’s free agency in 2020, coupled with his improved play the last two years, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see the two sides reach a lucrative agreement ahead of the start of free agency in March.