With Joe Haden trending in the wrong direction for Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens, the Pittsburgh Steelers will again be relying on young defensive backs to step up. Speaking to reporters Friday, Terrell Edmunds talked up the play of two younger DBs, praising the play and development of CB Justin Layne and CB/S Tre Norwood.
Edmunds was first asked about the job Layne has done, now in his third year with the team.
“He’s been doing really good on special teams,” Edmunds told reporters via Steelers.com. “Hopefully he can go out there whenever his number is called in the game and make some plays for us. He knows the system. He can go out there and make plays. Whenever your number is called, go out there and perform.”
Pittsburgh has been shuffling the deck at corner in Haden’s absence, in line to miss his third straight game with a foot sprain. James Pierre has been pegged as next man up but struggled, especially in last week’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Joe Burrow had a perfect 158.3 passer rating in targeting Pierre seven times in Week 12. By game’s end, Ahekllo Witherspoon replaced Pierre, targeting once and breaking up a pass.
With the team desperate for someone to step up, perhaps Layne gets back in the mix in the team’s sub-package, though it may be used less frequently against the Ravens’ run-heavy offense.
Norwood’s role has fluctuated this season, growing and shrinking based on the week. With Arthur Maulet dealing with a quad injury, Norwood could be the team’s starting slot corner in nickel packages while having a role in dime, something he’s done all year long.
Edmunds, like other players and coaches, praised Norwood for his high football IQ.
“With Tre I spoke on him two weeks ago when Minkah was out. His growth throughout this whole season, that’s big time. We know Tre, he’s a smart guy. He’s still a young player though. Continual growth all throughout the season. I think that’s a step he’s ready to take over. He’s been doing that. We expect to see him in December. If he was in college, his college season would’ve been over. Now you got to keep on going.”
The Steelers’ rookie class has been asked to play a lot of snaps this season. Top picks Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth have been key contributors while Kendrick Green and Dan Moore Jr. have started since day one. But day three picks have contributed too, like Norwood, fifth-rounder Isaiahh Loudermilk, and punter Pressley Harvin III. About the only rookie who hasn’t was sixth-round pick Quincy Roche, who is making his contributions in New York after being claimed by the Giants this summer.