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Cameron Heyward’s Impact Lost Amidst Historic Beating


By Matthew Marczi

It is no secret that Pittburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward has really blossomed in his third season. This began before his promotion to starter; in fact, it is what led to the promotion. With the increased snaps, however, he has gotten the opportunity to make a bigger impact on games. It may have been hard to notice in a 55-point beating, but Heyward had his share of impact plays this past Sunday.

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Working the cut block has been an issue for Heyward in his young career, including in this very game. Here, however, he was able to play off the block with ease, and as a result, it put him in excellent position to stop the play, which he did after a gain of just one. I believe Chris Hoke would be proud.

In fact, he successfully navigated the cut block again a bit later in the game, this time through more traffic, bringing down the back after a short gain.

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But, of course, Heyward’s reputation thus far throughout his young career has surrounded his ability to generate pressure against the pass from the 3-4 defensive end position, which has suffered somewhat since Ziggy Hood took over for Aaron Smith. Heyward looks a lot more like Smith rushing the passer than Hood.

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It is surprising that it took Heyward eight games to register his first sack of the season, given the significant amount of pressures he has consistently supplied throughout the year. In fact, he is tied with Brett Keisel for the team lead in pressures, based on the team’s own numbers.

On this play, he took advantage of the gap left open when left guard Logan Mankins moved to help out with Steve McLendon to get into the backfield. After pushing off the right guard, he had little chance of preventing Heyward of hitting the opening.

Of course, not every pressure results in a sack, but this play above is a good example of pressure influencing the pass without bringing the quarterback down. Thanks to the pocket quickly closing in on him, Tom Brady was compelled to dump the ball off to his back, and thanks to the good coverage of Lawrence Timmons, the Steelers forced a third down situation.

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On Heyward’s sack, he robbed LaMarr Woodley the opportunity to register a notch in that column. Here, Jason Worilds robbed Heyward of another notch. Some would argue that Heyward deserves split credit on this play. In fact, Pro Football Focus does credit him with a sack here. The Steelers did a great job of crossing the ends on this play to break down the interior offensive line, and it resulted in a collapsed pocket and a turf-stained jersey for the quarterback.

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About Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • steeltown

    Wow…impressive

    I wish I could say that about a few others on this Team

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Its like he is grease, no one can get a good hand on him.

  • JAMESH

    What took so long for the coaches to play him?

  • steeltown

    I think a lot of it had to do with waiting for Hood to come around, not that he’s played terribly, but he has never really wowed and he may never. Its clear Heyward is more consistent and has way more upside.

    The Hood situation is an interesting one.. the coaches like him, but I just don’t see how they can keep him around, unless he takes a very modest deal this offseason

  • Fritz Baughman

    He’s turning into a beast. Maybe Ziggy can carry his lunch tray around for him.

  • 20Stoney

    I think in a lot of cases this coaching staff seems to stick with guys that they are comfortable with. Hood may not be great, but they know what he brings. They don’t seem to like to take risk until they’re really forced.

  • Eric

    Heyward and Mac are good linemen. I f we can get a monster NT in say round 3 and move Mac back to DE, we could have a decent D-Line in the future.

  • cencalsteeler

    One concern I have is how easily the dline gets sucked into the wash when the offense runs the ZBS. If the Pats had a good cut back runner, I’d hate to have seen what could’ve happened. (gif 1 and 2).

  • Shea Fahr

    I know Woods has only played in certain packages and subs but we really have not heard his name called too often. It seemed there was a buzz about him in the offseason. Cam is obviously the best DL we currently have and he is very fun to watch for a 3-4 DE.

  • steeltown

    I’ve been wondering whats going to happen this offseason.. Hood, Woods and Keisel are all FA’s …leaving Heyward, McLendon, Fangupo, Arnfelt and N.Williams as the only DL under contract.

    Not sure if you remember, but Arnfelt was very impressive during the preseason. With another strong showing im pretty sure he’ll make the 53man next season, if he doesn’t another Team will go after him

  • Mike Sweeney

    If there was only some disturbance from the ends, maybe more turnovers could be coming our way. Cam is a wrecking ball and love his motor.

  • Ike Evans

    People kill me with this Ziggy hood empathy….they like Ziggy because for some reason they looooove average. Loooooove none playmaking almost but not quite solid guys. Here’s the facts though, most teams run to right side and it’s not because woodley is over there I’ll tell you that much. Zig has been a liability getting off blocks in the run game for 3 years. Cam has been better for 2 years. Tomlin has a trigger problem when it comes to more veteran guys. Quick to bench Jarvis but patient with Ziggy?

  • Shea Fahr

    Arnfelt may have something and make it. Williams looks to have the physical tools but may take another year or two to learn the system. I still have not ruled out Kiesel for one more year in a reduced role/paycheck.

  • Shea Fahr

    Love the motor.

  • Mike Carroll

    Tomlin has just realized this season that there is a lack of talent on his team. (His shell-shocked look during the first few weeks of the year indicated he really expected big things out this team.) Previously, Tomlin generally played guys he likes and he won with them. Tomlin liked Ziggy because he’s a good guy, a hard worker, and was a first round pick. So Tomlin played him and assumed he was a good player. Now Tomlin has begun to realize he needs to be more than a caretaker. The organization needs him to develop players and rebuild a new team, but I’m not sure he is the right guy for the job. I’m sure he’ll get a chance and he probably deserves it, but I wouldn’t be upset if they brought in a new coach with the ability to build a team.

    It’s great to see Cam Heyward showing some promise and hope he improves with real playing time. Would love to see Arnfelt step up and take the other starting spot next year. The Steelers need some gems to emerge or it could be a long turnaround.

  • steeltown

    True… could let Hood walk, re-sign Keisel on a one year min deal and hopefully Arnfelt can step up and make the roster. I have high hopes for N.Williams as well. He missed a lot of time during training camp and preseason with that knee issue but when he played, I think against Washington, he played well. I think he had a sack and a tackle for loss with limited snaps

  • Jeff

    Cam Heyward is one of the few positives for the steelers in 2013. This season is a disaster, but if you want to look at things optimistically, this guy is 24 and looks like he’s going to be a stud for years to come. I think 2013 was a positive draft too, so if these guys pan out, along with a strong 2014 draft, all of a sudden we are a young team with some strong potential. It’s not really in debate that this team is now in rebuilding, and maybe they do have the pieces in place and we just don’t know it yet.

    Some key draft needs for 2014 would be a LT, big WR, and corners…. that’s my 2 cents

  • Shea Fahr

    We have actually been pretty good against the run in the past 3 years. It is this year when the wheels fell off. There is a lot of blame to go around for that starting with the LBs. A 3-4 DL is paid to occupy blockers so the LBs can make the tackle before the OL gets out to block them. I am not overly impressed with Hood either but it took a long time for Smith and Kiesel to get good at it too. We also had Hampton at the point of attack and his specialty was occupying 2 blockers particularly in the Power Run. We currently do not have that type of NT on the Team right now…in other words, there is plenty of blame to spread around…not just Ziggy.

  • Shea Fahr

    I am still not sure that I would let Hood walk. I think he might make a solid rotation type end and backup NT in a pinch…if he is cheap enough though.

  • Ike Evans

    Kiesel was a 7th round pick. A smith was a 4th round pick….Ziggy was a first round pick and was constantly the weak link being exploited by other teams….we were good a against the run despite him. And truth be told besides last year we haven’t been good against the run since aaron smith was aaron smith

  • steeltown

    Agreed, especially if Keisel is not brought back on a min deal, then it would be ideal to try and retain Hood for a modest price

  • steeltown

    Run Defensive rankings after Aaron Smith started missing significant time with injury

    2012 – #2 90.6yds per game allowed, 9TDs
    2011 – #8 99yds per game allowed, 7TDs
    2010 – #1 62.8yds per game allowed, 5TDs
    2009 – #3 89yds per game allowed, 7TDs

    If I remember correctly 2010 was the year Ziggy assumed the full time role

  • steeltown

    I would also add TE and NT

  • http://www.nyob.com/ Dr. Doom

    CB & S

  • steeltown

    Yes, yes, we are in agreement there

  • http://www.nyob.com/ Dr. Doom

    Cam Heyward was a first round pick.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I’m honestly not sure if Woods has seen any time at DE, which is obviously his better position. I guess that’s what happens when you have to rotate 3 DEs already who don’t want to come off.

  • Jazz

    No, they need to grab a pure NT in rounds 1 or 2; they don’t have a 3rd round draft pick, they gave it up to Cleveland in next years draft to take Shamarko Thomas. Yep! I said it right, Shamarko Thomas, an undersized Safety who will forever be ate up by huge Tight Ends like Grankowski did last Sunday.

  • AndyR34

    It might come down to Hood vs. Keisel for those low $’s…but everyone is over-hyping Arnfelt’s and Williams play vs. scrubs. Let’s see how they have progressed next year before anointing them.

  • AndyR34

    Thanks steeltown…nothing like facts to wreck unsubstantiated assertions and hyperbole!

  • sean mcmartin

    Hood is not worth starter money for the Steelers defense.
    I’ll be watching to see if the next team can coach him up to his full potential or is he just average and already peaked.

  • Brandon James

    what about comp for wallace/lewis?

  • RW

    He never said Heyward wasn’t – this was an obvious connection to Tomlin’s preference of pedigree and work ethic over on-field production. Read and re-read.

  • RW

    With the mess we have at those positions financially over the next couple of years, the organization is sure to shy away from them in the early parts of any draft. Sorry.

  • 20Stoney

    I think Coach Mitchell is one guy that gets the most out of his players. I think Ziggy is probably all he can be in this defense.

  • charles

    Thomas is too slow.

  • charles

    Qbs are also getting rid of the ball quicker. Besides the obvious implications for the pass rush, this approach also has strong advantage on the “keep em in front of you” defensive philosophies…

  • Bob Loblaw

    Really hope they don’t go dline early on again. Team has much more immediate concerns.

  • SumnerYoung

    In 2011, the Steelers drafted Curtis Brown (late 3rd round) and Cortez Allen (late 4th) at CB. In 2012 they took a late flyer on a CB named Terrance Frederick (late 7th), who has since been cut. In 2013, they drafted a CB named Terry Hawthorne in the mid 5th. He didn’t last through the preseason. Cortez has some potential, but one out of four is bad. If they want a better chance at an impact cornerback, they may have to look in earlier rounds. Ike, Cortez and Gay will be back next year, assuming Ike doesn’t get cut for his big $$ contract. I don’t think he will. It would be nice to get a talented young buck into that group. Maybe free agency? Lots of holes to fill on the defense it seems.

  • SumnerYoung

    I think Cam Heyward would probably be our 2nd best tight end too. He’s a pretty darn good athlete. Remember when the Patriots used to throw TD passes to Vrabel when they were down near the endzone? I think Heyward could get into some offensive formations down near the goalline and catch some balls from Ben. I bet he could run block well too. I’d like to see that, but Tomlin hates creativity.

  • SumnerYoung

    Stephon Tuitt, the 3-4 DE from Notre Dame, has been mocked to the Steelers occasionally this year in the first and the second rounds. Not saying I’d want to draft another 3-4 DE that high, I’m just saying. Anyway, he’ll be playing against Pitt tomorrow night at Heinz Field.

  • SumnerYoung

    I’d have to think Wallace and/or Lewis would land the Steelers a late 3rd round comp pick or two. Also the Steelers may move back out of their first or second round position and accumulate more picks.

  • SumnerYoung

    Ed Reynolds, a JR free safety out of Stanford, might be a strong pick in the early 2nd round to replace Ryan Clark and help shore up the middle of the Steelers defense. He may choose to stay for his SR season though. Stanford’s D looked awesome last night as they dominated and abused and shut down Oregon.

  • SumnerYoung

    “Cam Heyward’s Impact Lost Amidst Historic Beating.” Great title for the article, but ouch, it hurts to read.

  • Ike Evans

    So this defense is as dominate as it was? Stats or not….thats a fact within itself..and none of that means Ziggy wasn’t the weakest link that teams used to exploit

  • steeltown

    I’d be ok with a stud NT in the early Rds, that’s about it

  • Jazz

    The reason we haven’t heard his name is due to him being hurt. Another reason is Tomlin has to be patient with these Rookies, it appears when they make one mistake, he pulls them from the lineup. Their Rookies, they are going to make mistakes, how the hell else will they learn? Sitting on the pine? No, other teams develop their players much faster and better than the Steelers. It was once a time the Steelers were known as the best Franchise of developing players; when a player departed, they plugged in another one and the Offense/Defense never skipped a beat.

  • walter mason

    When everyone was raving about Hoods work ethics last year, I posted the obvious, that Hood would make a decent back-up and I was called stupid here on this forum. I always thought Cam was much better showing flashes of potential and its nice to be right (occasionally) So.. for all of those posters that said I made a very stupid comment..EAT CROW lol.

    I also agree with those that think Tomlin is a poor judge of talent. Obviously lol.

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