The Pittsburgh Steelers know how to draft talent, and their 2021 NFL Draft class illustrates that perfectly. Of their nine drafted players, take a look at the players who have some sort of role within the team’s 53-man roster.
RB Najee Harris (1st Round) *
TE Pat Freiermuth (2nd Round)
C Kendrick Green (3rd Round) *
OT Dan Moore Jr. (4th Round) *
DT Isaiahh Loudermilk (5th Round)
CB Tre Norwood (7th Round)
P Pressley Harvin III (7th Round) *
* - Starter
When you look at the aforementioned list, it is hard not to see how young this Steelers team is at specific positions. For many they see players like Kendrick Green as playing just because there is no one better on the current roster. That argument can be made, but not every rookie falls into that category.
A perfect example of a player who hasn’t just filled a vacancy, but exceeded expectation is Tre Norwood. I still remember watching Mike Tomlin introduce the team’s 7th round pick out of Oklahoma, labeling Norwood a “Swiss Army Knife”.
This isn’t the first time Steelers fans have heard Tomlin given someone this moniker. He uses it often for players who can play more than one position, and can do it well. Sure, it is easy to pump up a 7th round pick, but how often do they actually pan out and become contributors?
Not very often.
But Norwood has been a mainstay on the Steelers’ defense in sub packages. He has played Mike Hilton’s old role in the nickel at times, primarily in Week 1 vs. the Buffalo Bills, but also has slid back to the dime role when the team adds the extra defensive back in that specific sub package.
Norwood as done well, even though his statistics don’t necessarily reflect it.
Games Started: 1
Combined Tackles: 15
Solo Tackles: 14
Tackle For Loss: 1
Pass Defense: 1
Norwood has had some good games throughout his young professional career, but his play vs. the Seattle Seahawks in Week 6 on Sunday Night Football was one fans will remember. Why? Because on critical third down plays, it was Norwood who was coming up and making the stop.
“I think he had three big stops.” Devin Bush said of Norwood after the overtime win vs. Seattle. “He’s growing, as you can see, making plays, showing up. He’s going to definitely be a key piece we need moving down the road.”
Norwood will be a big part of the Steelers’ defense down the stretch, and his growth has been noticeable not just to players, but to Mike Tomlin as well.
“Tre has been part of a group that has provided big-time versatility for us, man.” Tomlin said after the Week 6 game. “We’ve been working hard to find a division of labor there at the early portions of the season. Mike Hilton was a significant guy in some of that stuff here, and so we’ve got a bunch of guys doing a bunch of things. He’s a part of that group. We’re trying to highlight the individual skillsets. It provides an opportunity for a lot of those guys to make plays and he’s one of them. We’re appreciative of the efforts, and hopefully he, and we collectively, continue to grow as we push forward. But nights like tonight, you grow from it. You grow from it in a big way, and I’m appreciative of his efforts.”
There are times when a rookie is thrust into a position they aren’t ready for, and you can see the game flying by them. You never get that feeling from Norwood. He has been lauded as much for his intelligence and work ethic as he has for his versatility. That is a dynamic matchup and a reason why Norwood is a huge bright spot for the defense heading into the Week 7 bye week, and beyond.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they heading into a much needed bye week.