The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 NFL Draft class was, overall, pretty solid. It provided them with at least two solid starters in running back Najee Harris and tight end Pat Freiermuth. Tackle Dan Moore Jr. may also have a future on the left side, and while they’re hoping for a recovery from Kendrick Green and Pressley Harvin III, they found some role players on defense in the later rounds.
That includes defensive back Tre Norwood, one of his seventh-round picks. Including the postseason, he played just over 400 snaps defensively for the Steelers in 2021, recording 40 tackles, two tackles for loss, one interception and six passes defensed. He has two passes defensed in Sunday’s postseason loss.
While he’s certainly self-motivated, 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 to the rookie since he came 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 to have a guy like that, to be in the same room with him, to be able to stand behind him and learn from him, a guy who’s only four years old and has been to a couple of Pro Bowls and been an All-Pro a couple of times already, and it’s only the fourth year. Being able to learn from a guy like that meant a lot to me.”
One thing they both have in common is that they are both capable of moving around the field: Norwood always refers to himself as a defensive back, rather than a nickel, corner or safety. They both see the game from a more global perspective, and that probably helped them relate to the way they approach the game and their jobs within it.
“Whether we’re out on the field doing exercises, whatever it is, in the movie theater, I can always ask you a question,” he said. “If we’re home, I can text him if I see anything. Just being able to have a guy like that, to have a vet like that, 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 really excited to learn from him this offseason as well, and when we get back, get things going for year two.”
Throughout the year, Norwood recorded at least a few plays at every position in the secondary, at one point or another. He also spent several dozen plays in the box and a few along the defensive line, coming off the rim.
Basically, anything you’re asked to do in 2022, you’ve already seen and done. However, no one knows what role he could have next season. Can he be the nickel defender full time, or will he be limited to ten cents, or in some specific niche sub-package?
Obviously, that will be determined in part by how they approach the secondary this offseason. Joe Haden is a free agent, as is Ahkello Witherspoon, and so are Terrell Edmunds and Arthur Maulet. I imagine they’d like to bring them all back, but that’s not likely to happen.