If the season were to start today, would rookie seventh-round pick Tre Norwood be the Pittsburgh Steelers’ backup free safety? That’s what the depth chart says, though an actual in-game need could tell a different story.
Still, things appear to be going well for the late-round defensive back. Even going back to OTAs, he was garnering positive reviews for his performance. While branded a Swiss Army knife when he was drafted, the coaches have so far been keeping him steady at safety.
“I think it’s been going good, just being able to kind of hone in on one position and make that my focus right now, but I’m always ready to play any position on that back end”, he told reporters after practice earlier today. Head coach Mike Tomlin made similar remarks about him last week.
“My biggest thing is watching the older guys, like Mink [Fitzpatrick], TE [Terrell Edmunds], Cam [Sutton], even Joe [Haden], even though I’m not playing corner, but watching those guys and just learning from them, picking up the things that they do on the field, the way they communicate, the way they move”, he added.
Norwood spent time playing both inside and outside cornerback as well as safety over the course of his college career, though many estimate that his best position is free safety, where the Steelers have put their focus on him so far.
Of course, his number one priority as a rookie is going to have to be making himself useful on special teams, because the odds are probably low that he actually sees time on defense. Other than those he mentioned, Antoine Brooks Jr., James Pierre, and perhaps Arthur Maulet are all more likely to get on the field before he does.
Still, it’s not clear what the Steelers’ plan would be at free safety this year if Fitzpatrick were to sit out a game, because, really, who else on the roster is a free safety? Ostensibly, they could put Sutton back there and allow Pierre to start on the right side, but Miles Killebrew certainly isn’t a free safety. Edmunds would have to play the ‘free’ role if Killebrew were in the game.
He did start the opening preseason game, with most of the starters sitting, next to Killebrew at safety. Sutton and Pierre played outside cornerback, while Brooks was in the slot, to make up their ‘starting’ defense, which consisted of perhaps two of the players who will actually start the opener.
One thing that can be said for him is that he has certainly generated more positive press than most other seventh-round picks, particularly seventh-round defensive backs, though in my estimation, he still has work to do as far as tackling goes, even if he isn’t like Gerod Holliman.