Now that the regular season has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: DB Tre Norwood
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: Though seemingly hinted at, it was a mild surprise that rookie seventh-round pick Tre Norwood was featured in defensive sub-packages for the Steelers in the regular-season opener.
Out of nine draft picks in 2021, eight of them made the Steelers’ 53-man roster. Seven of them dress for yesterday’s game. Six started for their respective units, in some form or fashion, whether technically or otherwise. That number includes Tre Norwood, their first of two seventh-round picks, the other being punter Pressley Harvin III.
Norwood opened the game as the Steelers’ starting slot nickel defender, although ultimately four players—Arthur Maulet, Cameron Sutton, and even Minkah Fitzpatrick—would ultimately man that slot for at least a few snaps over the course of the game.
Not only was the rookie used as the team’s primary nickel defender, which kept Sutton on the outside, there were even times, specifically when Fitzpatrick rolled down into the box, where Norwood would actually drop back and play at free safety.
I find it hard to imagine that, if this was their plan for the opening game, that they would deviate from it and roll back Norwood’s role, unless due to performance. If you’re willing to not only play a rookie seventh-round pick but also willing to move him around into different roles, then you’re already comfortable with what you’re asking him to do.
Maulet has been with the team as long as Norwood has, give or take a day, and is actually a veteran with significant playing experience. If Norwood is playing ahead of him, it’s because they like him in that role more. It wasn’t just to surprise the Bills.
Mike Tomlin said after the initial 53-man roster came out for the regular season that he intentionally left off the ‘slot’ role that was on the preseason depth chart because he didn’t want to reveal anything. Perhaps we now know it’s because he didn’t want the Bills to know their intention was to start Norwood in the slot, having had him listed only as a safety.