Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth 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 season and into the offseason 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: Down
Reasoning: While the Steelers did not draft a defensive back in the 2022 NFL Draft, they did sign veteran safety Damontae Kazee soon afterward, who immediately becomes at worst the number three safety, and should be expected to play any third-safety snaps in the defense, at second-year Tre Norwood’s expense.
Looking at the layout, it’s hard to see how Tre Norwood, a seventh-round pick a year ago who showed promise, is going to get on the field much for this year’s defense, barring injuries. The Steelers did say goodbye to Joe Haden, but they brought back Ahkello Witherspoon at cornerback, and also added Levi Wallace.
That gives them a very defined, I think, top three at the position, alongside Cameron Sutton, who will be the slot defender in nickel packages, and whom I expect will be one of the two who plays outside in the ‘base’ defense as well.
So what about when they play dime? Is that when Norwood will finally get on the field? I wouldn’t bet on it. Not when they have an experienced and accomplished veteran safety with slot skills in Damontae Kazee. And I don’t think he would have been so quick to sign if he didn’t expect to play.
Norwood actually began his rookie season a year ago as the primary slot defender in the opener, which was not an ideal situation. He quickly gave way to Arthur Maulet, who also is back, and could be the number two slot defender in 2022.
But what does this ultimately say? To me, it shows that the Steelers actually have depth in the secondary. They may not have top-flight talent in the starting lineup outside of Minkah Fitzpatrick, but they have a number of defensive backs whom they believe can line up and play. That’s a good thing, because, often enough, having depth ends up being even more important than having elite starters.