The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking for a few good men to help contribute to their efforts, on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. The secondary was one area in particular in which they suffered some losses, and have had to seek help. Cameron Sutton graduated to the starting lineup, but they have a revolving cast of players functioning as the nickel and dime defenders.
One of them is Tre Norwood, the rookie seventh-round draft pick whom head coach Mike Tomlin called a Swiss Army knife for his ability to line up throughout the secondary. He appeared to get a long run in last night’s game, and came up with multiple key plays on possession downs for the defense.
“Tre’s been part of a group that has provided big-time versatility for us. We’ve been working hard to find the division of labor there in the early portions of this season”, Tomlin said after the game. “Mike Hilton was a significant guy in some of that stuff here. We’ve got a bunch of guys doing a bunch of things”.
Coach Tomlin speaks to the media about our win over the Seahawks ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/LH066ax4vG
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 18, 2021
Hilton was the team’s slot defender for the past four years, who signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency. His departure has left the Steelers open for volunteers, with Arthur Maulet and James Pierre also playing significant roles in nickel and dime packages, but, excluding Pierre’s starts due to injuries on the outside, Norwood has perhaps been the most steady nickel presence since week one.
“He’s a part of that group. We’re trying to highlight the individual skillset. It provides an opportunity for a lot of those guys to make plays, and he’s one of them, and we’re appreciative of their efforts”, Tomlin said. “Hopefully he and we collectively continue to grow as we push forward. But nights like tonight, you grow from it. You grow from it in a big way. And I’m appreciative of his efforts”.
Early in the game on Seattle’s opening drive, Norwood secured an open-field tackle on big-bodied wide receiver D.K. Metcalf on a 3rd-and-4 play, holding him to two yards and forcing the Seahawks to punt. He forced another punt in the first quarter with a pass defensed on a 3rd-and-5 pass intended for Tyler Lockett. And he blew up a pass to a running back on 3rd and 10 for a loss of four in the fourth quarter.
In recent weeks, Maulet, a veteran player, had been making a few plays and forcing the Steelers to consider giving him more playing time. Pierre has had his ups and downs, but helped win last week’s game with a final-play interception near the goal line, starting for an injured Sutton.
If the Steelers can actually develop this trio, consisting of a couple of very inexperienced players, then they might have a very interesting secondary. Right now, they lack a lot of consistency, but they have stepped up and made plays in big moments. This night, the nickel belonged to Norwood.