Discussion: Who Is The Favorite To Open Week 1 As Pittsburgh’s Starting Nickel Defender?

Last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers had a host of defenders operate in the nickel spot in the team’s sub package defense. Tre Norwood got a fair amount of run at nickel corner in his rookie season and represented himself well in his first NFL action. Arthur Maulet saw some action in Pittsburgh’s defense as a nickel/dime defender as well, bringing a feistiness and physicality to the position which was much appreciated in run support.

Minkah Fitzpatrick also was asked to come down and play in the nickel on occasion last season as well as other defensive backs, but it would be safe to assume that Pittsburgh would opt to keep Fitzpatrick as their starting free safety in their defensive system.

While we can expect Pittsburgh to use multiple bodies at the nickel like they did in 2021, who can we expect to be the team’s starting nickel defender when Week 1 kicks off againt the Cincinnati Bengals? Compared to last season, Pittsburgh has several names that could qualify for that role in 2022 based on the current state of the roster.

Norwood proved to be suitable for that role as a rookie, and his play should only improve with another year in the league and a full offseason of team activities and playbook study under his belt. We have often referenced CB Cam Sutton as a good fit in the nickel as well after the Steelers signed Levi Wallace and re-signed Ahkello Witherspoon this offseason. The team is trying all three cornerbacks on the perimeter as well as in the slot, but Sutton was primarily a nickel/dime corner his first few seasons in the league, making him a logical fit.

Maulet should figure to once again be in the mix to see snaps in the slot should he make the team out of training camp. The team also signed DB Damontae Kazee this offseason, who has experience both at safety as well as a nickel/dime defender, making him another possible choice to man the nickel spot should Pittsburgh want to deploy three safeties in their starting nickel defense, same if Norwood were to be placed at the nickel.

So, I now leave it up to yinz. Who do you think will open up as the starting nickel come Week 1 against the Bengals in Pittsburgh’s sub package defense? What is your reasoning for your choice? Do you think that the nickel spot will be a “division of labor” as Mike Tomlin would say, or do you think that there will be a primary defender that logs a majority of the snaps at the position for most of the season? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!

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