PITTSBURGH — Cam Sutton wants to be more of a playmaker in 2022. Indeed, Sutton took a step in the direction on Thursday with an impressive last minicamp practice. Heading into the last year of his second contract, Sutton is looking to make a lot of splash plays and become more invaluable to the Steelers than ever before.
So, on Thursday, the veteran was proud of himself when he made two interceptions. One was simply a heads-up play where the ball bounced off a player’s hands and into Sutton’s hands. It was the type of play where ball-aware players make the most money. Sutton knew where the ball was and made a play via the old tip drill method. It is an unconventional method to getting the splash plays, but a practical way nonetheless. There is a skill that ball magnetism as a defensive back.
On the next interception, Sutton simply broke on the ball. It was a nine route that was underthrown slightly and Sutton took advantage of that fact. That was the more traditional route for the interception. It was a play that Sutton patted himself on the back for and the team celebrated heavily. That was all ball skills and a read and react play for the heady Tennessee product. If he can take that next step forward in ball production, he thinks he can become a bigger asset to the team.
“Those plays just came in during good situations,” Sutton said. “Going in with the calls and understanding the roles, the opportunity just presents itself. I’m out there trying to make a play on the ball and make a difference for the team. That’s the direction I was in today. I was in good spots on both of them. I’m just trying to be opportunistic. That’s something I want to do this year, and it showed today”
It looked like Sutton was primarily outside last year, but he could play a variety of roles this year. That includes the slot and outside as well. With Levi Wallace in the fold, Sutton may be asked to go full time into the slot or at least go into that role more often. Making plays on the ball as he did on Thursday will result in him being a cherished member of the group and a likely extension in the offseason.
Chris Oladokun Learns the Two-Minute Drill
For the fourth-string rookie, experiencing two straight days in the two-minute drill can be a big-time learning experience. Chris Oladokun is experiencing the ups and downs of the drives. His first drive on Wednesday did not go to plan. Oladokun ended up throwing an interception on the drive and he was off on some of his throws. That was something that he came out of the first two-minute drill that he got and wanted to improve upon. Oladokun noted that it left a sour taste in his mouth to end off the two-minute drill on a turnover like that. However, the adjustment as much mental as it was physical with his mechanics and processing.
“First-day man, I missed a couple of throws,” Oladokun said. “We moved the ball, but I missed some guys. Coach Tomlin always says to make the routine plays routine. I made two plays yesterday that I felt I didn’t make. I made the mistake of throwing that interception. So today, I was going in to watch the film and correct those things. I felt like I did that.”
So, Oladokun led a drive down the field on Thursday. it was a drive that was increasingly impressive. Perhaps the most impressive play was when Oladokun hit Tyler Vaughns on a slant route. It was a complete anticipation throw. He threw Vaughns open into green space behind the linebacker. That is the type of growth that Oladokun is trying to harvest through minicamp. When it comes down to that play, it was both a sense of anticipation to hit Vaughns, but more so, a mental read. Oladokun read the coverage perfectly and knew where he was going after using his post-snap processing.
“Today, I did better,” Oladokun said. “I saw the safety rotation and I knew what they were going to give me. I felt well studied. It’s so different from our defenses because of all the disguises we see. That’s something that got me yesterday. So, today, I saw the disguise, saw the safety rotation and that’s why I was able to anticipate that slant. I feel way better coming off the field today than I did yesterday.”
So, the Oladokun-led offense marched down into the redzone. Oladokun scrambled in for a touchdown that head coach Mike Tomlin called off. However, Oladokun believes that the drive was capped off with a touchdown right there, thus giving him a bounce-back two-minute drill.
“He knows I did,” Oladokun said. “They don’t want to give a rookie a rushing touchdown from the goal line for his first minicamp. It’s all good. It’s good for me to get those reps anyways so I can work in the redzone.”
Mitch Trubisky knows all too well that the coaches will force the quarterbacks to score with their arm rather than their legs in the drills. As such, Oladokun is just one of many touchdowns that could be called back from scrambling around. But Trubisky is on Oladokun’s side.
“They’re not going to count a QB scramble,” Trubisky said. “You’ve got to throw it into the end zone. Like Coach T says, it’s football-like but not football. But in my book, I think Chris scored right there, so you’ve got to give to the young guy.”
Oladokun did get red zone reps afterward, and that was what helped him gain some valuable experience. Of course, getting the two-minute drill going, he was able to gain valuable insight into situational football. It will help him when the team joins up for training camp in Latrobe in July.
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Eddie Faulkner’s Unique Drills
Every minicamp practice, it has seemed that running backs coach Eddie Faulkner has come up with special drills. They include medicine balls, boxing gloves, a million cones, and more. It has certainly drawn the attention of not only the media in attendance but the running back room in particular.
For a rookie like undrafted free agent Jaylen Warren, Faulkner’s unique style of drills is a completely different experience from anything else he has ever practiced with. Warren, who went from JUCO to Utah State to Oklahoma State, has plenty of experience at the college level. However, Faulkner’s cache of drills is a new experience.
“I’ve never had a running back coach like that, being put through all that,” Warren said. “It’s like jump here, cut here, stiff-arm here. All that and you’ve got to process it. You let people go in front of you so you can get it down once it’s your turn. You hope you don’t mess up.”
Warren and others have had to adjust to Faulkner’s unique style of coaching over the years. After a while, it becomes somewhat easier. Still, Warren and the other running backs learn a lot from the drills that Faulkner concocts on a daily basis at practice sessions.
“It’s been an adjustment, but I think as we’ve went on, it’s gotten a little bit easier,” Warren said.