Breaking Down The Playing Time Steelers DE Cameron Heyward Received In 2012

With Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward being a talking point today, a reader has asked me via email if I have a breakdown of his snaps last year as it relates to which side that he played on.

I have now pulled that data from our game charting from last year and here is the breakdown.

Of the 260 non penalty snaps that Heyward played in 2012; 126 of them included him playing on the left side, while 134 of them, we had him playing on the right side of the defensive line.

As you can clearly see, Heyward\’s playing time was pretty much balanced as to what side of the line he played on and that balance also carried over to the sub packages as 87 of the total plays included him being in on either nickel or dime packages.

The 2012 season started off very unbalanced for Heyward as far as the side that he played on, however, as through the first five games, we have him playing 48 snaps on the right as opposed to only 11 on the left. 4 of those 11 left side snaps were when the Steelers defense used the big nickel front against the New York Jets.

While Heyward\’s total snap count last season wasn\’t very high, it could have been much lower. In the Week 11 game against the Baltimore Ravens, Heyward saw a lot of playing time due to Ziggy Hood being forced from the game with a lower back injury. In addition, Heyward also saw a good chunk of playing time; 40 non penalty snaps, in the season finale against the Cleveland Browns after Brett Keisel left with a knee injury.

As I mentioned in a previous post during the offseason, I for one will be very surprised if Heyward wins a starting job out of training camp despite the fact that several of the beat writers suggest that he will.

The Steelers aren\’t very deep at the defensive end position and that lack of depth currently extends into next year as well, as both Keisel and Hood aren\’t currently under contract for 2014. Should Hood get an extension during the upcoming training camp, he most likely will receive one because the team views him as a starter moving forward.

Heyward, in my opinion, will start off the 2013 season backing up both Hood and Keisel with the hope that he can overtake the latter of the two by the end of the year. Keep in mind that the Steelers hold a fifth-year option with Heyward after his rookie contract expires following the 2014 season, so it\’s not like he is going anywhere anytime soon.

  • steeltown

    Very nice.. was wondering how much playing time he received on either side, its more balanced than I thought. I pretty much agree he will most likely back both sides up this season and might even see more reps spelling Keisel by the end of the season, to keep him fresh if it looks like we’re headed to the playoffs.
    Ive been thinking Hood might be next in line for an extension and at this point he shouldn’t break the bank

  • Randy Neff

    Wasn’t aware of the fifth year option with Heyward. Thanks dave.

    Heyward has moved around more for sure. That may keep him as the swing player. But, I still have a hard time believing that the team/coaches can keep him off the field if he’s clearly the better player over Hood.

  • dgh57

    All 1st rounders have a 5th year team option which started a few years back.

    Hood has gotten better each season and John Mitchell has said all he needs to work on are some technique issues. So that tells me they plan on working with him this preseason on these issues and that they see further improvement in his play. That makes sense to me meaning that they want to work with Hood to make sure they get all they can out of him before they decide to move on.

  • VaDave

    RE: Technique improvement needed
    You mean, like not being knocked 5 yards of the line of scrimmage and outside the numbers on stretch plays??

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    Get on the field. Execute your assignments. Make plays. Make it impossible to take you out.

    Just throwing it out there to all the DL on the roster.

  • mem359

    Now I’m curious how well Heyward performed on each side.
    Or to be more exact, did he have more success when Harrison was commanding attention, or was Heyward just as good next to Woodley’s bad hamstring?

  • dgh57

    No no, you are talking about during and when the play is finishing. I’m talking about just when the play starts. Like taking the right angles, hand placement, foot work and so on(refer to that post about what he’s working on this off season a few days back). What ever it is they must see room for improvement(being patient unlike some fans) or they wouldn’t bother with trying to work with him anymore and move on. Depending on if/when he shows this improvement is when he gets a extension before the season, next off season, or even at all.

  • VaDave

    I was just being a smart schmuck. Your observation is spot on. As for us keeping him around is he’s under contract and he’s cheap. The proof on whether or not we think he is serviceable him will be the next contract we offer him, if we offer him on at all

  • dgh57

    I figured you were but I replied in case you weren’t.

    I want Hood to succeed because that means one less position to have to worry about. Then we can focus our attention on more pressing needs like the o-line depth.