The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 NFL Draft class was, overall, a pretty strong one. It netted them at least two solid starters in running back Najee Harris and tight end Pat Freiermuth. Tackle Dan Moore Jr. may have a future on the left side, as well, and while they are hoping for a bounceback from Kendrick Green and Pressley Harvin III, they found some role players on defense in the late rounds.
That includes defensive back Tre Norwood, one of their seventh-round picks. Including the postseason, he played just over 400 defensive snaps for the Steelers in 2021, registering 40 tackles, two tackles for loss, an interception, and six passes defensed. He has two passes defensed in Sunday’s postseason loss.
While he is certainly a self-motivator, though, Norwood was also eager to credit the role of others in his early success, especially free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who has been something of a mentor for the rookie since coming into the league.
“Mink’s impact on me my rookie season was huge, and that might be an understatement, honestly”, Norwood told reporters yesterday. “He took me under his wing from day one. For me, having a guy like that, being in the same room with him, being able to be behind him and learn from him, a guy that it only year four and has been to a couple of Pro Bowls and been All-Pro a couple times already, and it’s just year four. To be able to learn from a guy like that, it just meant so much to me”.
One thing that both of them have in common is that they are both capable of moving around the field—Norwood always only refers to himself as a defensive back, rather than a nickel, corner, or safety. Both of them view the game from a more global perspective, and that’s probably helped them relate to how they approach the game and their jobs within it.
“Whether we’re on the field doing drills, whatever it is, in the film room, I can always ask him a question”, he said. “If we’re at home, I can shoot him a text if I see something. Just being able to have a guy like that, have a vet like that, it means a lot to me”.
“His impact on me has been huge and tremendous, and like I said, that’s probably an understatement”, the rookie reiterated. “I’m so excited to learn from him throughout this offseason as well, and whenever we get back, getting things going for year two”.
Over the course of the year, Norwood logged at least some snaps at every position in the secondary, at one point or another. He also spent several dozen snaps up in the box, and a few along the defensive line, coming off the edge.
Basically, anything that they might ask him to do in 2022, he has already seen and done. What role he might have next season, however, is anybody’s guess. Can he be the full-time nickel defender, or will he be limited to dime, or in some specific niche sub-package?
Obviously, that will be determined in part by how they address the secondary this offseason. Joe Haden is a free agent, as is Ahkello Witherspoon, and Terrell Edmunds and Arthur Maulet, as well. I imagine they’d like to bring all of them back, but that’s not likely to happen.