Given how significant the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie class has been so far during the 2021 season, it would be fitting if we use some of the downtime this week during the team’s bye to pause and take stock of where those rookies are right now.
Pittsburgh drafted nine players, with eight of them making the initial roster. Seven of them have been regular contributors for all or most of the season, including numerous starters, so there is a lot to discuss, with four starters on the offensive side of the ball alone.
After investing in the skill positions in the first two rounds with running back Najee Harris and tight end Pat Freiermuth, the Steelers turned to the offensive line, with center Kendrick Green in round three, followed by tackle Dan Moore Jr. in round four. All four are starting.
Their next four picks all went to the defense, starting with inside linebacker Buddy Johnson in the fourth round, followed by defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk in the fifth, outside linebacker Quincy Roche in the sixth, and defensive back Tre Norwood in the seventh. They rounded things out with punter Pressley Harvin III with a final seventh-round pick.
DB Tre Norwood (round 7)
While the Steelers went four-for-four in picking out offensive starters with their first four draft picks, one in each of the first four rounds of the draft, it may yet prove that seventh-round defensive back Tre Norwood was one of the biggest steals of the draft.
A versatile secondary player out of Oklahoma, Norwood has been impressing coaches since he first got on the field in rookie minicamp, and found his way into mentions throughout the offseason process as a young player showing positive signs.
He had some rough moments here and there during the preseason, and he got away with a few coverage lapses during his most extensive playing time in the regular-season opener, but the coaching staff has since pared down and focused his role on the defense, and in recent weeks, he has been excelling.
In a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, his stock is particularly high right now, considering the fact that the last time he was on the field, he recorded three third-down stops amid just 15 snaps’ worth of playing time. Winning money downs will certainly get you noticed.
Still, it’s difficult to foresee what the long-term future might hold for him. Is he destined to be a sub-package player? Or could he be a full-time starter in a year or two? Would that diminish what many feel may be his greatest attribute, which is his versatility?
Or is his true gift simply his mind, his ability to process the play and respond to it? Now, he’s not likely to ever be a starting outside cornerback in this league, and on a team with Minkah Fitzpatrick, he’s not going to start at free safety, either. But could he take over at strong safety? Or is the nickel the best he could hope for—which, admittedly, is substantial all the same?