When the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense took to the field early in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills with their backs against the wall following a 75-yard kickoff return to open the game, heavy lifting was expected of the talented Steelers’ defense.
What wasn’t expected was seeing rookie seventh-round draft pick Tre Norwood on the field playing significant snaps right away. Such is life in the NFL for the Oklahoma product, who has quickly adapted to the NFL and has picked up the scheme and added responsibility rather seamlessly in the Steel City.
Defensive coordinator Keith Butler praised the rookie defensive back for his ability to learn quickly and handle a heavy workload right away coming from the Big 12.
“He is. Very smart young man,” Butler said to reporters Thursday regarding Norwood, according to the transcript. “We got him here in training camp and saw what he could do and how he handled stuff mentally, and we liked what we saw.”
The staff liked what they saw so much that Norwood was playing key snaps right away against the Bills, recording 21 defensive snaps in the Week 1 win, adding a key pass breakup in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Cornerback Cameron Sutton knows a thing or two about being a young player in the Steelers’ system tasked with significant snaps while still trying to learn on the fly. Sutton, who has developed into a starting cornerback with the Steelers and received a second contract this offseason, praised the young Norwood, stating he never “got wide-eyed” in the Week 1 win.
“It was amazing, you know, he’s a guy who didn’t get wide-eyed it, you know, a guy who came here very focused, very sharp guy,” Sutton said to Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews. “He has a lot of tools in his bag, and is obviously very communicative. Again, he’s a guy who was held to a high standard, and he doesn’t shy away from that. He runs to that. I’m very excited for what he’s going to do for us the rest of the year, and can move them around very as a very interchangeable piece for us. And he plays fast. He plays physical. He’s very smart. He’s very well-rounded guy. I love him.”
Coming out of Oklahoma, Norwood wasn’t known as a physical defender, and that showed up in the preseason as well, so that doesn’t quite match up with what some of his teammates are saying. However, he was a guy that handled a number of roles and positions with the Sooners, working at boundary corner, slot corner, field safety and box safety at times, which is likely what attracted the Steelers to him in the draft process.
So far, the Steelers have thrown a ton at him, and Norwood has answered the call, quickly and quietly working into a key role on a talented defense. With how quickly he continues to develop, the sky is the limit for the young rookie, who could be develop into an integral role on the defense, much like Sutton has over the years.