Reduced, Focused Role Paying Off For Tre Norwood

Tre Norwood’s played some of his best ball recently with a breakout performance Sunday night against the Seattle Seahawks. Even back during camp, it was clear Norwood had talent worth keeping around and developing. But the first couple weeks of his rookie season were rocky. So what’s changed? Of course, he has more experience, he’s gotten more reps, made more mistakes, and learned from them. But how the Steelers have used him is also different. Norwood’s snaps and role have been scaled back, allowing him to focus on a specific defensive package rather than multiple of them.

The numbers tell that story. Using our charting, Norwood had a much heavier workload the first two weeks of the season and was used in multiple roles. He played 111 total defensive snaps. Here’s how they were broken down.

Tre Norwood Usage (1st Two Weeks – 111 Snaps)

Tre Norwood (Position) Nickel Personnel Dime Personnel
NCB 51 23
Dimebacker 0 1
FS 20 16


That’s 71 snaps in the Steelers’ nickel defense and 40 in the Steelers’ dime defense. He was used as a nickel corner, free safety, and one odd snap as the dimebacker.

Let’s compare that to what has happened since over the team’s last four games. Norwood has played just 58 snaps over that span. And here’s how that breaks down.

Tre Norwood Usage (Last Four Weeks – 58 Snaps)

Tre Norwood (Position) Nickel Personnel Dime Personnel
NCB 0 12
Dimebacker 0 46
FS 0 0


Norwood has been taken out of the team’s nickel package, replaced by Arthur Maulet, who has done well in that role. In dime, Norwood has primarily served as the floating, dimebacker with 12 snaps in the slot. That’s scaled down his role significantly, allowing him to focus on the roles of the team’s dime package, which I’d wager is a little easier to digest since it’s used in more specific situations. Mostly passing downs and personnel as opposed to nickel, which can and will be used against a variety of looks and downs/distances. He’s also spent the majority of time at one position, 79.3% of those snaps as the dimebacker.

That’s important for a guy like Norwood. Though he’s a smart guy and been praised by the coaching staff for his football IQ, there was too much on his plate in the early going. Pittsburgh was trying to figure out who and what they had and were moving their secondary pieces around quite a bit. Even Minkah Fitzpatrick was moved from his free safety spot the first two weeks and I think it had a negative impact on his comfort in his role. You can only imagine what that’s like for a rookie such as Norwood.

This was one of the issues the Steelers had with Sean Davis early in his career. A smart, athletic, versatile player, they asked Davis to wear several hats before ever settling into one position. It would be unfair and inaccurate to blame that entirely on the reason why he struggled in the NFL but it certainly didn’t help him. Norwood has the ability to become the Swiss Army knife Mike Tomlin referred to him as when they made the pick. But asking him to do that right away is a tall task for anyone and Pittsburgh’s feeling the benefit of paring down his role, allowing him to focus on a specific assignment and package, and play fast without having to overthink. Norwood’s playing his best ball lately because of it.

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