While they may not have made the investments when and where many felt they should have, the Pittsburgh Steelers did add some young talent into the secondary over the course of the past month as they try to plug some holes in the depth following the departures of Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton.
One of those players is Tre Norwood, a defensive back who has played outside cornerback, slot, and safety over the course of his college career. A seventh-round draft pick, he will have to earn his spot on the 53-man roster, but hopes to find his way into filling the hole left by Hilton, their previous slot defender, who signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency.
And he may be able to learn from the man who will likely otherwise replace Hilton, in Cameron Sutton. Signed to a two-year contract as he hit free agency, Sutton was brought back to enter the starting lineup, but how much time he spends outside will be determined by other moving pieces.
Now entering his fifth season, and with 1000-plus snaps under his belt, Sutton is very comfortable in his game, and looking to take on more responsibility. Norwood said during rookie minicamp earlier this month that Sutton reached out to him following the draft.
“He extended his arms as a big brother, as a guy who’s been here”, he told reporters at the time. “I can’t wait to sit down and pick his brain and get to know more about this defense. So I can learn the ins-and-outs and continue to learn and get better”.
While it’s been reported that players have already been working out at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex as part of Phase Two of the offseason program, today marks the start of Phase Three, which begins with OTAs and includes mandatory minicamp.
In other words, this will be the first opportunity for the rookies to interact with the veterans in an on-field practice capacity, even if the emphasis will be on learning and on individual drills. It has been reported that there will be no 11-on-11 work, though 7-on-7 drills could come later on.
Sutton was once the young guy himself back in 2017, albeit as a third-round pick, and he got a chance to learn from the veterans, which would eventually include Joe Haden when the Steelers signed him as a free agent that August.
Now he’s beginning to return the favor with the team’s young cornerbacks, which also includes third-year former third-round pick Justin Layne, and James Pierre, who is entering his second season since being signed as a college free agent a year ago.
Between the three of them as well as veteran Arthur Maulet, and rookie college free agents Shakur Brown and Lamont Wade, they will have to figure out who in the world will be their fifth defensive back. But whoever it is will be in good company surrounded by Haden, Sutton, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Terrell Edmunds.