The Pittsburgh Steelers’ nickel corner turned out to be one of the hottest and most talked about position battles of the summer. Heading into Sunday’s opener, we still didn’t know who the guy was. A stark difference from the past several seasons where Mike Hilton was the defined starter, Cam Sutton the defined backup.
So who got the job against the Bills? Tre Norwood. And Minkah Fitzpatrick. And Arthur Maulet. And oh yeah, Sutton too.
I’ve gone through and charted the Steelers’ defense and sorted out who exactly saw slot snaps for the team. Here’s the list, from most to least, shown below.
Steelers Slot Snaps Vs. Bills
It’s worth pointing out Haden and Pierre’s snaps came not as conventional “nickel snaps.” They came against empty, aligned more to the inside when a linebacker walked out on a running back. Still, it was a slightly different alignment and leverage than what those guys are used to.
Norwood started the game there and saw the first 21 snaps in the slot. Arthur Maulet came in to play the next, followed by Fitzpatrick for two, and then Maulet for nine more. Norwood got another and then it swung back to Maulet. It bounced around in the second half with Norwood and Fitzpatrick basically splitting reps.
Based on that chart, Norwood is your starting slot corner. But he’s far from the only one. Fitzpatrick played more down in the slot than he basically has in the last two years. And he did well enough, allowing three catches on four targets but for just 25 yards and one first down.
Ideally, the Steelers have a more defined role going forward. Yesterday required a lot of moving pieces and that occasionally got the team in trouble. Once called for 12 men, Tyson Alualu late getting off the field, and Melvin Ingram was called offsides late in the game trying to get onto it. It’s clear the team’s high on Norwood – that much was evident before Sunday – and maybe the team makes him the guy going forward. But Sunday, it was all hands on deck. And it worked. Which right now, is all that matters.