Steelers Tab NIU Linebacker Sutton Smith in 6th Round

Two-time All-American and MAC defensive player of the year heading to Pittsburgh

Josh Rowntree
April 27, 2019 - 3:59 pm
Northern Illinois Huskies defensive end Sutton Smith (15) against the Buffalo Bulls at Ford Field.

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports


The Steelers have drafted Northern Illinois outside linebacker Sutton Smith with the team’s first of three picks in the sixth round of the NFL Draft. 

“He’s a quick guy off the edge,” Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said. “He’s going to add some depth to our outside linebackers and help our special teams. 

“When we get him here, we’ll see what he does best. Right now, we know that he’s a good off-edge rusher for us and will create some good competition for us at outside linebacker, which always will be good.”

Smith, a two-time consensus All-American and twice named the MAC’s defensive player of the year, put up eye-popping stats while with the Huskies. 

Over the previous two seasons, he compiled 29 sacks and 56 tackles for lost, making himself one of the most disruptive edge rushers in the NCAA.

But Smith is tiny for an outside linebacker, at 6-foot-0, 233 pounds. He ran a 4.69 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. 

“The game is changing to a quicker game,” Butler said. “People are keeping wide receivers on the field a lot more than they used to, so we’ve got to adapt as a defense. And, sometimes, adapting the defense means you have to graduate to guys who can move. And Sutton can move.”

Smith believes he projects as an inside linebacker with capabilities to rush the passer, while Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler thinks he will, at least initially, add depth to the outside linebacker spot. 

“I play with a lot of heart, aggression and speed,” Smith said. “Wherever I end up, wherever I play, I’m just going to give it 110 percent and I’m not going to look back. I’ve got to be a hard-nosed player and that’s what I’m going to be. 

“I’m trying to be the biggest problem an offense can go up against.”

Hear more from Steelers LB Sutton Smith and DC Keith Butler below.