With the 2022 NFL Draft now just weeks away, it is as fitting a time as any for us to now turn our attentions backward to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft class of 2021, looking back on their first year in the league and what their futures look like at this point. The team got an inordinate amount of playing time from their rookie class last season, with almost every draft pick contributing significantly.
In all, the Steelers held nine draft selections, including one in the fifth round after they traded a 2022 fourth-round draft pick for one, so they won’t have one this year. They had at least one selection in every round, with two in the fourth and two in the seventh.
Their first four selections were all on offense, the first time in history they used their first four selections on one side of the ball. Their next four draft picks were all defensive players, but they finished their class with one special-teams selection.
The later you’re drafted, the less likely you are to make a team, for obvious reasons. Having two seventh-round draft picks out of two make your roster, especially for a team like the Steelers, isn’t incredibly common.
While it helps that one of them was a specialist, Tre Norwood certainly deserves credit for being able to make the team, even if the Steelers were not incredibly deep at the safety position at the time that he was drafted.
In fact, he even opened the 2021 regular season as the Steelers’ primary slot defender in the nickel defense. While his role was adjusted over the course of the year, scaling back to a dime role, he showed a lot of promise that could lead to a bigger role going forward.
At the moment, the Steelers are in need of a starting strong safety, though Norwood does not ideally profile there. He is better suited to play free safety, where, of course, Minkah Fitzpatrick will likely spend the next six-plus years.
Still, he will likely be the next man up at safety, and he did start in place of Fitzpatrick for one game last year when he was out due to COVID-19. Norwood exhibited durability by playing in all 17 games, logging roughly 400 defensive snaps and another 200-plus on special teams.
In all, he finished the year with 38 tackles, including two for loss, as well as an interception and four passes defensed. He had a knack for making plays on third down, as well. Though we certainly shouldn’t be overselling him, either.
Maybe Norwood develops into a full-fledged starter, in time, but at least for the time being, he will remain a valuable sub-package player, especially in situations where they want to use a third safety. But his ability to play throughout the secondary will make him useful no matter what the future holds.