The Pittsburgh Steelers selected nine players during the 2021 NFL Draft. Eight of them made the 53-man roster. Six or seven of them are likely to dress for the season opener, with fifth-round defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk the most likely to sit, followed by fourth-round linebacker Buddy Johnson.
Five rookies will be in the starting lineup, at least. Seventh-round “Swiss Army knife” Tre Norwood is not likely to be counted among the starters, himself. But he has consistently made a positive impression on his coaches and teammates since he’s gotten here, to the point where there has seemingly never even been a question of his making the team.
“Tre’s a very smart guy. They drafted him, didn’t know what to expect, but he came in and has done a great job with his role”, veteran free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick said of the player who is potentially his direct backup. “He doesn’t miss any assignments, and he’s an athlete as well”.
It has to be noted that the Steelers felt good enough with where Norwood was in his development at safety that they began to work him in the slot in the latter stages of training camp, where he also played late in the preseason.
It is unlikely that he is going to be out there in the slot against the Bills, and, really, I wouldn’t expect him to have a defensive role this year at all, barring injury, but the mere fact that he has been able to even make it a conversation through his play and practice habits is impressive.
Of course, one thing that helped Norwood along the way has been the simple fact that the Steelers have been hurting for safety depth. After losing Sean Davis and Jordan Dangerfield (and seemingly having no interest in a reunion), they came out of the draft with just veteran special teamer Miles Killebrew backing up their starters, along with a trio of late-round or undrafted rookies.
Norwood’s ability to display a football mind beyond his years has been the key to his getting as far as he already has. Even special teams coordinator Danny Smith has praised his ability to digest new information quickly and adapt to sudden changes, saying that he tested the rookie as though he were a veteran, and he responded appropriately.
He still figures to be at least a couple of bodies away from getting playing time on defense—at least that is my assumption. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler has said multiple times that he wants to force “dadgum Buffalo” to figure out what their plan is in the secondary, so maybe he’ll be a bigger part of the process than we think. After all, he was significant enough to be the subject of a question from a reporter, seemingly not at random.