Tre Norwood has bounced up and down the Steelers’ depth chart this season. For the first two weeks, he was used like the Swiss Army Knife. After some predictable rookie struggles, the Steelers’ scaled back and focused his role to solely dime packages.
For Week 10 against the Lions, Norwood climbed back up the ladder. Not only did he maintain his usual role in dime packages, he was almost exclusively the Steelers’ nickel cornerback, usurping Arthur Maulet.
According to our defensive charting, the Steelers were in their 2-4-5 nickel defense for 25 snaps against the Lions. Norwood was on the field 23 of those snaps. Maulet picked up only a pair, once late in the first quarter and again late in the second quarter. Some of that may be due to Norwood’s play. Another part could be due to Maulet’s struggles against Chicago, allowing three catches for 64 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown.
Norwood’s play against the Lions warranted his ascension. He made three third down stops, two tackles and a breakup, and his play was gotten better week-by-week. Since the bye, he’s been targeted nine times, allowing five completions for just 63 yards with no touchdowns and interceptions, a QB rating against of 77.5.
Of course, Minkah Fitzpatrick’s COVID shelving may complicate Norwood’s Week 11 role. It may expand again to replace what Fitzpatrick is capable of doing at free safety. Norwood’s skillset is the closest thing to Fitzpatrick in terms of position and play style, an whip-smart player with plus ball skills, though Norwood isn’t quite the athlete Fitzpatrick is and obviously, not the overall caliber of safety.
When he was drafted, there was no guarantee Norwood would even make the team. But he immediately started producing better than his seventh round status suggested, easily making the 53 man roster and earning a B grade in our summer report, second best of any safety on the roster. He’s earned his role and after the team scaled back his snaps to not overwhelm and stunt his growth, his value to the defense is growing.