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Cam Heyward: The “Overlooked” Steelers Legend

ESPN Monday Night Football

Cam Heyward: The “Overlooked” Steelers Legend

As the Pittsburgh Steelers and Steeler Nation have celebrated the career of future Hall of Fame QB Ben Roethlisberger, they are also preparing to make an unexpected playoff run.  But Roethlisberger is not the only veteran seeking to make history for his career and capture a Super Bowl ring for his legacy.  Big Ben has a teammate who has been on the team for 10 years and is the man who most closely bridges the gap for the next generation of Steelers stars to understand what it really means to be a Pittsburgh Steeler:  Cam Heyward.

While not receiving the same recognition as the almost certain 2021 Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt, Heyward has been a stalwart of the Steelers defensive line since taking over as starter at DE for former first round pick Ziggy Hood in 2013.  The 31st overall pick in a truly deep class at DE in 2011, Heyward has only gotten better with age and blossomed to the point to being voted Defensive Captain in 2015 (an honor he has held every season since) and has even clearly outplayed 3x Defensive Player of the Year and future Hall of Famer J.J. Watt since 2016.  The Steelers sorely missed his presence when a pectoral injury cut short his season and effected the Steelers playoff run to the 2016 AFC Championship Game.

But upon Heyward’s return in 2017, he posted a career high 12 sacks, was named 1st team All Pro for the first time in his career and kicked off a run of 5 consecutive Pro Bowls.  While T.J. Watt has rapidly marched up the ranks (including tying the single season sack record) to be on the verge of overtaking James Harrison (80.5) as the Steelers All-Time sack leader, Heyward has made a push to also overtake the former Defensive Player of the Year with 68 career sacks of his own and is poised to pass up the unofficial tallies of Steelers legends Joe Greene (77.5) and L.C. Greenwood (78.0) – something all the more impressive as it was done from the 3-4 defensive line.  He has made teammates better through his presence in a similar fashion to Greene, forcing double teams and allowing Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave and Tyson Alualu to flourish.

 

CBS Sports

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Cam Heyward is Steelers stock through and through, as he followed in the footsteps of his father and Pittsburgh Panthers legend Craig “Ironhead” Heyward.  He epitomizes everything that is Pittsburgh:  tough, blue collar, no frills, hard work and impeccable character.  He has been an unquestioned leader of the Steelers locker room for years and will carry that mantle on until he retires and passes it onto the next generation of Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick.

CBS Sports

It does pose the question – considering the great play of Cam Heyward, who is almost certainly to be named All Pro again for a 4th time in 2021 on the heels of a 10-sack campaign – is he the best defensive lineman in Steelers history after the greatest Steeler of them all:  Mean Joe Greene?  Does he surpass the great play of Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel, Ernie Holmes, Dwight White and even L.C. Greenwood?

NFL Films

One thing is certain – this playoff run beginning on Sunday vs. the Kansas City Chiefs is just as much for Cam Heyward as it is for Big Ben – as the 10-year vet who just missed out on the 2000’s Super Bowl runs deserves to play in one of his own and even make a legitimate case for Canton.

#SteelerNation

PMP; CSM; CSPO and host of the PMI-TB Agile Podcast. A lifelong Steelers fan, I had the chance of a lifetime when I was able to celebrate Super Bowl XLIII with the team. I love talking everything Steelers from the old days to the new and look forward to working with the team to grow this platform to be the premier Steelers site.

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