PITTSBURGH — In professional sports, veteran leadership is as important as anything to a team. Young players can confide in these veterans and seek advice as they learn the game at its highest levels. So, when Tre Norwood was drafted out of Oklahoma and known as a swiss army knife, it was easy to see who he would try to learn from. Cam Sutton, who had been the Steelers swiss army knife, was moving to outside corner. Norwood was likely going to replace him.
From the day Norwood stepped into the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, he and Sutton had a natural mentorship with one another. Add in the fact that they trained at the same place, and Sutton and Norwood were immediately thrown into a friendship. It was something that just naturally happened, though. Before anyone else reached out to Norwood after he was drafted, it was Sutton letting Norwood know that he could help him with anything. That’s where the mentorship began, and it has carried on since.
“I’ve learned so much from him,” Norwood said. “The day I got drafted, he was the first person to reach out to me. He just let me know I could ask him anything. We were similar players. I trained at the same place he trained at. That’s where our relationship developed.”
Norwood played three different spots last season. He has worked at free safety, the slot, and at dimebacker. In college, Norwood played five different positions, with those three listed above as well as outside cornerback and strong safety. Sutton was a very similar player who wore so many hats. That led Norwood and Sutton into the mentorship together. Sutton showed Norwood how to prepare week in and week out. It was never an easy process for both, but Norwood learned quickly with Sutton’s help.
“He’s always been that big brother,” Norwood said. “He’s going into Year 6 playing at a high level. He’s a guy I’ll always lean on for everything. He can tell you what the D-Line’s doing and all the way up to the secondary. That’s something I’ll always utilize and ask him a question. He never hesitated to answer my questions. That’s something I try to pride myself on. I love to learn from him.”
Norwood watches film by himself weekly. However, he always hits up Sutton to ask about certain things. It seems like in record time, Sutton has an answer for everything. Sutton’s detailed approach to watching film might be the reason for that. He breaks down his opponent’s tendencies by route combination, area of the field, down and distance, leverage, and more. Sutton is almost like a computer with knowledge of who he is about to go up against. That makes him a great resource for Norwood.
“Anytime I’m at home watching tape, I’ll almost always shoot him a text,” Norwood said. “I get into the building the next day, I’ll go like ‘hey, what do you think about this and what do you see on this’ to him. He just knows everything.”
Sutton is always a willing mentor to anyone on the team. He fondly refers to Norwood as his little brother, but he calls everyone on the team his brothers. That is the fabric part of what makes Sutton a fantastic mentor. The other part is that he might just be the smartest player on the team when it comes to his football IQ. Sutton knows the ins and outs of what the Steelers do and what his opponents are doing, too.
When it comes to his relationship with Norwood, though, Sutton felt a little extra something to teach him the ropes. After all, there are not all that many guys who can do what Sutton did for so many years. Then, as a seventh-rounder, Norwood was more than impressive in the same role. How in the world does he do it? Sutton sees a lot of himself in Norwood, and that was one of the things that inclined him to reach out so early.
“Our relationship is great, man,” Sutton said. “I love all my brothers. Tre is a guy that a guy that came in ready, and I knew Tre before coming here because we trained down together in Tampa while he was coming out. I saw him come in and the type of player and person he was, and he was ready to work. He was working on his craft. Coming in to the building with him, it was like seeing the brother you hadn’t seen in only a few days. It’s been special. He’s a great piece for us. He’s a great communicator. I see a lot of myself in him. He’s really special.
As such, the Sutton and Norwood relationship is the foundation of a strong, versatile secondary. With both guys being able to play so many different spots, it is hard to downplay how valuable they are. Secondary coach Grady Brown is not downplaying the value of guys like them, either. Brown has been repeatedly impressed by Norwood and loves what he can do. In fact, he went as far as to say he was a young Cam Sutton.
“That’s what makes Tre great,” Brown said of Norwood. “He can do a number of things. We’re not going to handcuff him. We’re not going to lock him into a certain position. I think he needs to continue to be like a young Cam Sutton. He does so many things. You can never have enough of those players in your room.”
Sutton and Norwood are both likely to see significant tread in the modern subpackage football league. With so many high-propensity passers in the AFC, they are more valuable than ever. These are players that allow the Steelers to disguise so many coverages. The mentorship has been one that has only benefitted the Steelers. As Sutton continues to play well, Norwood is learning the curve with help of Sutton’s mentorship.