Now that the regular season has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: DB Tre Norwood
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The rookie defensive back has not only been contributing significantly in a limited role in recent weeks, but could possibly be in a position to start at free safety on Sunday in the event that Minkah Fitzpatrick is not cleared from the COVID-19 protocols.
While the Steelers’ 2021 draft class as a whole is still looking like a pretty solid one—with an emphasis on the upside for a couple of them—an argument can certainly be made that seventh-round defensive back Tre Norwood has been one of their top three rookies thus far, along with running back Najee Harris and tight end Pat Freiermuth, their top two picks.
The Oklahoma product had his role dialed back significantly after opening the season as the team’s primarily nickel defender, scaling to a workload of about 15 snaps per play on average, but evidence indicates that he may have jumped ahead of Arthur Maulet again to be the team’s primary nickel as we enter the second half of the season.
Beyond that, the misfortune of others may create an opportunity for him this week. Starting free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is on the Reserve/COVID-19 List, and head coach Mike Tomlin expressed doubt that he will be available by Sunday.
Somebody will have to start in his place, in that event, and Norwood is as likely a candidate as any, in spite of the fact that he has no experience starting. Miles Killebrew is the other reserve safety on the roster, though Karl Joseph is on the practice squad.
Given the way that the rookie has played lately, though, I expect that the Steelers are going to give him the chance to start and play the lion’s share of the snaps there, provided that he puts together a solid week of practice that doesn’t shake their confidence in him.