It’s not often we hear Pittsburgh Steelers head coach, Mike Tomlin give praise to a rookie this early into training camp, but that has certainly been the case with this year’s sixth round draft pick, Connor Heyward. The rookie offensive weapon was drafted out of Michigan State University where he was utilized as both a tight end and running back, where he shined enough to garner attention around the NFL.
“We’re running a little short at tight end today because of [Pat] Freiermuth, and it gave a guy like Connor Heyward an opportunity to put his skills on display,” said Tomlin.
“I thought he stepped up and made some plays today.”
Heyward’s pass-catching ability has been showcased early throughout camp and his 6 foot frame has been utilized in the red zone attack so far as well. The Steelers rookie tight end has been seen being a target in both the “7 shots” goal-line drill as well as the 11-on-11 period working with the second-string offense where he continued to showcase his pass-catching abilities to anyone questioning them after his transition from running back in college to tight end in the NFL.
Obviously, Heyward has been getting a bit more looks due to last year’s breakout tight end, Pat Freiermuth being sidelined with a minor injury that should only keep him off the field for a bit longer. Nevertheless, the first-year tight end has been doing everything he can to make sure his transition to the NFL goes smoothly. Heyward is coming onto a team that struggled offensively last season, and offensive coordinator, Matt Canada will have to decide where Heyward’s skill set fits best.
“Just doing as much as possible, being able to show my versatility and show the coaches that I can just build every day. You’re not going to be perfect out there, but they just want to see improvement every day and see you steadily getting better.”
The rookie will be competing for playing time, there is no doubt about that. There are three guys above him with prior NFL experience, and have done so in the black and gold. Freiermuth clearly sits as the number one option at tight end, and under him, we see four-year veteran, Zach Gentry and two-year veteran, Kevin Rader who will both be competing with Heyward for the number two option at the position.
As we all know, Connor Heyward is the younger brother of five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro selection on our defensive line, Cam Heyward, which now means the Steelers themselves have three sets of brothers wearing the same black and gold. Cam is one of the undisputed leaders on not only our defense, but is one of the most prolific voices throughout the organization as a whole. Obviously, production is what keeps you on the field and what Connor has done so far in a short minicamp period has done exactly that.
Conner Heyward is very Juju like.
— Vince Williams (@VinnyVidiVici98) July 30, 2022
If one thing is for sure, it’s that Heyward is gaining the respect of his coaches and fellow players, which is exactly what you would want to see out of a sixth round selection coming into training camp. Although many may like to think that he has an “easy way in” to making the Steelers final 53-man roster due to his big brother, it certainly doesn’t seem like that has been stopping Connor from putting in the work that needs to be done in order to solidify his name somewhere on the depth chart.
Do you think Connor Heyward will make the final 53-man roster? Comment below!