Film Room: Tre Norwood Versus Seahawks Breakdown

After being selected with the 245th pick as a 7th round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, safety Tre Norwood carved out a key sub package role as a rookie. In total, he played in all 17 games, three of which he started, finishing his rookie campaign with 38 tackles, a pair of TFLs, an interception and four passes defended. He would go on to add a pair of passes defended in the Steelers Wildcard Weekend loss in Kansas City.

Much of Norwood’s value lies in his versatility, where he has shown the ability to play both safety positions, as well as taking snaps as a slot cornerback in the Steelers Dime package, showing the ability to function at a high level in man coverage. Moreover, while his perceived lack of overall physicality and tackling ability pushed him down draft boards, he appeared to improve mightily in that department as a rookie, providing promise for his much anticipated sophomore campaign, where he should continue to be a staple in the teams sub packages.

Today, we’ll be taking a look at Tre Norwood’s performance from a Week 6, Sunday Night Football contest at Heinz Field against the Seattle Seahawks, who started a former first round pick and longtime journeyman quarterback in Geno Smith. Overall, Norwood impressed, providing sticky man coverage and physical play throughout the night and compiling three tackles, all solos with one resulting in a loss, as well as an impressive pass breakup. While he undeniably showed some bad eye discipline at times, a trait which got him into trouble at times as a rookie, much of that is expected growing pains for a young defensive back transitioning to the NFL level, and should be worked out as the game continues to slow down for him.

As I touched upon previously, the biggest knock on Tre Norwood’s game in the pre draft process centered around his lack of desired physicality and inconsistent effort in the tackling department. Thus, despite putting up great ball production stats, with five picks as a senior, and coveted versatility, the Steelers were able to snag Norwood in the 7th round. Nonetheless, early on in his rookie campaign, it became apparent that Norwood’s physicality had improved mightily ahead of his first NFL season, where he not only tackled effectively, but delivered some sizable hit power at times.

Below, in a third and medium situation, the Steelers appear to be in some variation of Cover 1 man with a “banjo” check between the defensive backs(a check where the cornerback will take the first receiver who takes an outside release and the safety/nickel will take the first receiver to take an inside release. The check is made to combat natural pick routes.). Norwood follows his man, Tyler Lockett, in motion across the formation, appearing to miss communication from Cameron Sutton, who instructs Joe Haden to trigger the flat.

While the miscommunication leaves Norwood in no man’s land, and allows a receiver to streak uncovered up the seam, pressure from Alex Highsmith is enough to force Geno Smith into a quick dump off to DK Metcalf on a shallow crossing route. Upon realizing that Haden has picked up his man, Norwood does a great job of transitioning his eyes back inside to find work, planting to drive the shallow crossing route from DK Metcalf, and shooting low to cut the large framed receiver down at the knees, allowing no room for yards after the catch and stopping the receiver well short of the sticks. Miscommunications will naturally happen from time to time in the secondary, and likewise, it is important not to compound mistakes. Despite realizing that he was out of place in coverage, Norwood’s awareness and ability to quickly find work and cover for a misstep by Terrell Edmunds, preventing a first down conversion in the process.


On the ensuing drive, with the Steelers in a Cover 2 man under coverage, Norwood aligns over tight end Gerald Everrett, who is aligned in the slot, working in a cut split stack with Tyler Lockett. At the snap, as Everrett stays in to chip TJ Watt, Norwood transitions his eyes to pick up Lockett, who releases inside, stemming to attack Norwood’s inside leverage.

Norwood does a great job of weaving to keep his leverage while staying square, allowing him to stay connected to Lockett’s upfield shoulder as the receiver declares inside on the crossing route. Playing from a top shoulder position with contact on the receiver, Norwood is able to key quarterback Geno Smith’s release, undercut the pass, and get his left hand across for a pass breakup while securing the tackle with his upfield arm. While Norwood’s versatility is certainly an asset, his ability to provide stingy man coverage in the slot is a big part of what made him so effective in the teams sub packages as a rookie, a role which he will compete for once again in this year’s upcoming camp.


Similar to the previous rep, while Norwood’s ability to keep his eyes active and scanning the field helps put him in position to consistently make plays at the catch point, he can also occasionally get caught with his eyes in the backfield, taking him out of position. Below, Norwood is once again aligned in the slot, playing catch man coverage on Tyler Lockett in the Steelers Cover 1 Robber scheme.

At the snap, Norwood turns square to the line of scrimmage, weaving past a pick route to match Lockett to the flat, and getting in phase before opening to turn and key Geno Smith. Whereas on the last rep Norwood played the upfield shoulder and maintained contact before getting his eyes into the backfield, here he does so with no contact, allowing Lockett to sneak past him up the sideline to generate noticeable separation.

Once again, as rush and coverage work in tandem, Geno Smith gets flushed from the pocket to his left, leaving him unable to set his base and find Lockett, instead making the shorter throw over the middle of the field. Regardless, this easily could have resulted in an explosive play touchdown, and reps like this show Norwood’s biggest room for improvement, eye discipline, which is an issue that plagues many young defensive backs.


Back to his tackling, so often, the easiest way to fix tackling issues is to improve play recognition and trigger quicker downhill, making it easier to engage ball carriers before they can turn upfield. Below, Norwood is once again aligned as the Nickel cornerback, sitting at sixth yards depth head up on DK Metcalf. At the snap, Norwood identifies Metcalf climbing to block Cam Sutton, triggering downhill immediately with proper outside leverage and beating Gerald Everett’s kick out block with speed.

Once past the blocker, Norwood stacks the blocker, comes to balance, and shoots low to make a nice form tackle on Tyler Lockett, stopping the screen for a loss of four yards. Norwood’s play recognition and ability to trigger quickly here allow him to beat the oncoming blocker and blow this screen up in the backfield. Teryl Austin and company deserve plenty of credit for the progress they were able to make with Norwood’s ability and effort as a tackler, as it made him a far more complete player than what was shown on his Oklahoma tape.


One of the most single high centric defense’s in the NFL since in the 2019 acquisition of Minkah Fitzpatrick, the Steelers love to deploy variations of Cover 3 as a change up to their Cover 1 scheme. In this Cover 3 scheme, the Nickel cornerback, primarily aligned to the field and/or passing strength, serves as the “scf”(seam->curl->flat) defender, working high to low and forcing the quarterback into checkdowns.

At the snap, Norwood aligned head up on the #2 receiver, expands laterally and re-routes the receiver outside toward his deep ⅓ defender, Joe Haden before eying Geno Smith, expanding to the flat, closing to the catch point, and tackling the tight end after a short gain on the hitch, limiting yards after the catch. While the hitch is the route that the defense is designed to give up on this rep, Norwood would be best served to work with more depth here in order to stay on top of the hitch and not allow himself to get out-leveraged to the flat. While he makes a nice tackle here, he puts himself in a tough position where he is unable to square up the ball carrier, allowing room to fall forward on contact.


Overall, both Norwood’s game against Seattle, as well as his overall rookie performance were extremely impressive given his stature as a 7th round rookie. Next, I am looking forward to evaluating a game of an incoming Steeler, and one who is set to compete with Tre Norwood for sub package snaps in Damontae Kazee. Feel free to let me know in the comments if there are any specific single game evaluations that you would like to see from the Steelers defensive back room this past season!

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