The Pittsburgh Steelers have been searching for a slot corner. Friday night, Tre Norwood became next man up. Partially due to injury and starters being rested, no Arthur Maulet, no Cam Sutton, Norwood got his shot to play inside. Something new to him this year but not something new in his football career, playing there at points in his Oklahoma career. So it’s no surprise to hear he felt good moving back there against the Panthers.
“It went well, my first time this entire preseason,” Norwood told reporters post-game via a transcript from the team. “It felt good to be on the inside getting some action, getting to do it in a live game. We did it in practice this week but being able to get out there, doing it in a live game, I felt comfortable with it. It’s something that I like to do.”
Norwood moved between safety and slot throughout the first half. He officially began the game at safety with the Steelers in their base defense but rolled down to cover the slot in nickel packages. The Steelers weren’t shy about testing his ability to blitz either, something they value highly inside. Norwood blitzed on his first two slot corner snaps and three of his first four, though his timing was off and he didn’t record a pressure.
We’ll need to go through the tape more but his overall performance in the finale was mixed. Some good, some bad, on a forgettable night for much of this team. Steelers coaches have praised Norwood’s IQ and versatility. When he was drafted, Mike Tomlin announced the pick and called him a “Swiss Army Knife.” For most of the year, he had been used as a free safety, falling back on the team’s mantra of getting comfortable at one spot before being moved.
Norwood could be a slot candidate down the road but it’s still unlikely he’s in that role to begin the year. He’s still a seventh-round rookie with warts in his game. And though his tackling and physicality has improved, it still has a ways to go in order to become consistent, and it’s near-impossible justifying playing a guy like Norwood over say, Cam Sutton in the slot.
Still, it was an important look at what Norwood could do and for the fourth preseason game, a good time to get his feet wet.
Odds are good the team adds a DB before Week One but Norwood is still inside-looking-out to make this roster. He’s got a good football IQ that reveals itself on the field, finding and closing on the ball quickly, with plus ball skills (just ignore his dropped INT last night) and the versatility he showed against the Panthers. That’s a combination of talents worth holding onto even if he needs time to develop and grow, like all seventh rounders do.