Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said yesterday that he expects their game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday to look like a 7-on-7 drill much of the time. The Bills scored more than 30 points per game last season, and generated that through their passing game. That means a lot of defensive backs on the field.
Meanwhile, reporters have continued to ask players and coaches about rookie seventh-round pick Tre Norwood. Is this an indication that he is going to be on the field for the defense in some sub-packages? Is that why the coaching staff keeps talking about keeping things vague, so as not to reveal this (among other things)?
The Steelers are already set to start five rookies in Sunday’s game against the Bills, with running back Najee Harris, tight end Pat Freiermuth, and linemen Kendrick Green and Dan Moore Jr. on the offensive side of the ball. Pressley Harvin III is their new punter. Will Norwood be their lone rookie defender on the field?
“Just like the others, although we haven’t talked about him, he’s deserving”, Tomlin said of Norwood earlier today. “He’s worked hard. He’s capable. It’s going to be exciting. I think we’re all leaning in with excitement about watching he and those other guys contribute to our efforts”.
The Steelers have been talking up the young defensive back throughout the offseason. In June, defensive assistant Teryl Austin likened him to Cameron Sutton. At the start of training camp, Tomlin said he was hoping ball skills would be a specialty of Norwood’s, after intercepting Ben Roethlisberger twice in practice. He ultimately showed enough at safety that by the end of training camp, they were willing to give him time in the slot. And he may well be out there on Sunday, at this point, living out a dream.
“It’s always an interesting time period in their lives”, Tomlin said of rookies making their debut. “There’s a lot of excitement associated with it. These guys have been dreaming about this opportunity all their lives. It’s one of the elements of this journey every year that’s really fun to watch them live it out and to watch their first experiences and things of that nature. They’re all prepared and deserving and ready”.
The Steelers drafted nine players this year. Eight of them are on the roster (Quincy Roche was lost on waivers). At least six of them should be dressed in Buffalo, and possibly all of them will. They have gotten a lot of productivity out of their rookie classes over the past two years, but having an early impact from late-round picks has been rare, so if they could get Norwood going early, it would be a welcome change.