The Pittsburgh Steelers may not have an elite secondary, even if they do have an All-Pro free safety in Minkah Fitzpatrick, but one thing they do seem to have this year is some depth. They have been regularly using about seven different players in the secondary so far, with the potential to add a couple more veterans who are with the team into the mix in the second half of the year.
Tre Norwood, James Pierre, and Arthur Maulet are the relative newcomers who have been contributing by playing the nickel and dime roles, Pierre also serving as a reserve on the outside, but Cameron Sutton is also a part of this conversation, too, graduating last year from dime back to starter. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler talked about the state of their young secondary with the contributors playing in new roles this season.
“We’ve got a pretty good core of defensive backs, I think”, he told reporters earlier this week, via transcript. “We’ve got Cam Sutton, who’s been with us for a while. Cam knows the defense very well. Our two safeties have been playing together for a while”, referring to Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds. Joe Haden is the other veteran in the secondary at cornerback.
“21 [Norwood], you’ve seen him come along. Cam can play all of them. He’s probably more suited at the nickel backer or as an outside guy. Some young guys have been able to help us”, Butler said. “Pierre, he’s got to learn to play and learn what’s going on in front of him, what people are trying to do to him and stuff like that. He’s learning. I think TA [Teryl Austin]’s done a good job with our secondary. We’ve got to continue with them though to build”.
Austin, who has been on the staff as a senior defensive assistant the past few years with a focus on the secondary, also talked to reporters earlier this week and weighed in on some of the Steelers’ new pieces in his position group.
“Tre’s been doing well. He gets a little better with more experience”, Austin said of Norwood. “Really sharp player, so you don’t see him making the same mistakes twice, which is good. He’s really been coming in in the dime personnel, because we like his pass savvy and his route-recognition skills”.
He called Pierre “a heck of a competitor”, though acknowledged some of his struggles. “I like his trajectory. He’s still got a ways to go, but I think I’ve learned about him that he is a tough guy. He gets around the ball, and he’ll be competitive, and he’ll end up being a good player for us”.
Coming out of the bye week, the task is to see if they can grow from the playing time they have experienced through the first six weeks of the season. For both Pierre and Norwood, this is their first really meaningful or substantial playing time in the NFL, so they should be expected to grow.