Want something to really look forward to seeing Friday night when the Pittsburgh Steelers close out their 2021 preseason schedule against the Carolina Panthers and, yes, besides quarterback Dwayne Haskins starting that contest? How about rookie defensive back Tre Norwood playing some as the nickel cornerback spot against the Panthers? That’s exactly what is supposed to happen Friday night, according to head coach Mike Tomlin on Wednesday.
“On the defensive side, we’re excited about maybe giving Tre Norwood some opportunities to play at nickel,” Tomlin said during his Wednesday press conference. “He was focused exclusively at safety for the better part of this process, but he’s been trained and has been learning nickel the whole time. He’ll probably get an opportunity to take some snaps there.”
The Steelers are still desperately attempting to identify what their nickel sub package will ultimately look like for 2021 season with less than three weeks to go before the regular season gets underway. Currently, it looks like the Steelers nickel slot cornerback to start the season will be either Cameron Sutton or Arthur Maulet, especially on the heels of second year defensive back Antoine Brooks Jr. being waived as injured on Tuesday.
As of Wednesday, Norwood is now a candidate to be the team’s nickel slot cornerback in 2021, albeit a dark horse one this late in the process. Even so, Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler sang Norwood’s praises after Wednesday’s practice concluded.
“Oh, he’s a very smart young man,” Butler said of the Steelers rookie seventh round selection out of Oklahoma. “He’s smart enough. He’s like Cam Sutton. They’re smart enough to play more than one position. And my thing is with all of them is they’ve got to make themselves valuable. How do you make yourself valuable? You make yourself valuable by playing special teams, by playing nickel, by playing safety, by playing corner, playing a lot of different positions. If you can do that, you make yourself valuable to the team. The more valuable you make yourself to the team, the best chance you’ve got to make the team.”
Even though Norwood is a rookie and thus expected to learn one position thoroughly before learning a second or third one, Butler isn’t overly concerned about putting quite a bit on the young defensive back’s plate this early in the process.
“Yeah, but he’s capable of it [learning more than one position], Butler said of Norwood. “I mean, we wouldn’t stick him over there [at nickel] if we didn’t think he was capable of it. We have confidence that he can do that stuff.”
Norwood has played the most snaps of any Steelers player so far during the preseason so look for him to once again play quite a bit in the finale against the Panthers on Friday night. Should Norwood wind up having a good showing as the team’s nickel slot cornerback Friday night, perhaps there’s a chance he could enter Week 1 as the starter there.
“So, is he going to play the nickel? I don’t know,” Butler said on Wednesday. “We’ll see this ball game and going into the next one, you know, who’s going to be our nickel.”