The regular season opens in about two weeks. As far as we can tell, rookie seventh-round pick Tre Norwood is going to open the season as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ top backup free safety. That might not be the worst thing in the world, given that he has done a decent enough job and shown improvement over the course of the preseason.
“I felt it went really well”, the rookie said last night in assessing his own offseason. “I was just excited to be out there playing ball and taking strides each and every game. Learning, that’s the biggest thing with the preseason and camp, learning and taking those steps and getting better each and every day and each and every rep. I felt like I did that”.
Head coach Mike Tomlin did announce him as a “Swiss Army knife safety” when they selected him back in May, but it wasn’t until this past week that they actually started to move him around the field. They talked for weeks about wanting to get him rooted down at free safety, which they did. He got an opportunity to play some in the slot last night, expanding his repertoire.
Still, one wonders what the plan is, ultimately, for the position. the Steelers previously brought in free agent Malik Hooker, but did not sign him, and in hindsight, I suspect that it may be related to his vaccination status, based on general manager Kevin Colbert’s previous remarks and the fact that he just spent a close contact’s worth of time on the Reserve/COVID-19 List.
In other words, I would presume that the interest in adding a safety is still there, even if they ultimately did not land on Hooker. If they do add a player to the 53-man roster from outside of the organization, it is as likely to be here as anywhere else on the roster.
Norwood logged 113 snaps through the first three preseason games this year while playing safety. He only recorded three tackles. He was credited as being the coverage player when targeted only once during that time, in the first preseason game, and recorded a pass defensed. He added four tackles in slot work last night.
With Antoine Brooks Jr. having been waived injured, the Steelers’ only other safety of note is Miles Killebrew, a veteran signed as a free agent, who has primarily been a special teamer over the course of his career. He has played reasonably well during the preseason so far, though he is really a strong safety.
Pittsburgh does seem to be pretty high on Norwood and his performance going back to OTAs, though, as he’s been steadily noted over the course of that time. He did drop an interception last night, but his final college season shows he has ball skills.