Can Cameron Heyward Return Kicks?

By Michael K. Reynolds

The Pittsburgh Steelers are on a roll and hopes are high again which means for the time being everyone is playing nice-nice with the coaches. But that doesn’t mean we let them entirely off the hook, especially with a 5-6 record still looming.

For there remain some real head-scratchers when it comes to gridiron strategy and Coach Mike Tomlin‘s stubbornness has been both his strength and weakness through the years.

These are great unsolved mysteries in the same category as the origins of the Loch Ness Monster, the existence of the Sasquatch and trying to figure out whatever happened to Hannah Montana.

Chief among these is this: Why is Felix Jones still returning kickoffs for the team?

He may have once inspired fear in the hearts of opposing special team coaches but probably not since his rookie year at Dallas. Even the untrained, uneducated eye can tell Felix just doesn’t seem all that excited about the role.

And bless his heart…I don’t blame him one bit. The thought of running headlong into eleven over-sized, high speed sides-of-beef while tens of thousands of uncaring observers munch on nachos is no way to make a living.

But, perhaps there is someone else on the roster who is young and naive enough to put a little more oomph into the task?

Like Exhibit A, Cameron Heyward. Both of his returns this year have produced more thrills than all of Felix’s combined. Heyward flashed his Pop’s straight arm technique during his fumble return against the Cleveland Browns this Sunday and who doesn’t love a big man with a little dance in his shoes? Even if he only manages to make it out to the twenty yard line we would be no worse off, and it would be a joy to watch him bowl down the wedge.

What about Jonathan Dwyer, Coach Tomlin? If you won’t give him a hand-off, why not a kickoff? If you haven’t noticed, the young man is dying to gain some yards for the team and his growing legion of fans.

Or if we’re going to insist on taking a knee on every kickoff, then why not get some promotional value for the Steelers marketing department? At home games, we could have the 50,000th fan in the end zone be the honorary squat down artist.

Why not Emmanuel Sanders? Sure, he’s got a bum wheel, but wouldn’t we rather see him hopping out of the end zone on one leg than merely waving the white flag?

My favorite option should have happened last Sunday. After the Steelers clobbered the Browns, someone could have grabbed Reggie Dunn (now on their practice squad) and thrown him on the team bus. He may not have been able to catch punts in the pre-season, but I betcha he would have already had a kickoff return TD or two to his name if the Steelers would have given him a shot.

Contrary to popular opinion, the kick return has not gone the way of the dinosaur…yet. Although there are more touchbacks these days than in the past, games are still lost and won with hundred yard returns. This year we’ve had to take on the likes of Cordarrelle PattersonDevin Hester and Jacoby Jones. Why not fight back with a little shake and bake of our own?

Maybe it’s not Felix’s fault at all. Maybe they are telling him to play it safe. But, come on Coach Tomlin. You’ve forgot you’re in the entertainment business.

Let’s put the thrill back into kickoff returns.

About the Author

Michael K. Reynolds
Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers fanatic and author of the acclaimed Heirs of Ireland series.
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  • blackandgoldBullion

    When the Steelers are near the goal line, Cam should get the ball and try to batter it in there. I really don’t think he would do much worse than what we’ve seen in the recent past.

    Cam for fullback occasionally.

  • James Kling

    I like it!

  • dkoy85

    Finally! Somebody wrote about the most annoying part of the Steelers game, and thats the lack of commitment to the kick return. With the coaches committing to Jones that proves to everybody were not looking to improve the kick return even though we have plenty of explosive potential. Drives me crazy.

  • srdan

    you should change your name

  • Kenneth Wilt

    He looks like his dad on that play.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Oh, I just remembered: I do agree with most coaches that you don’t want to risk some key players on returns, because the potential for injury is increased. But at the same time, when they need to win games near the end of the season, or in the play-offs, then you start to see the DeSean Jackson’s of the NFL back there on returns. I agree with that.

    But, I can also think of several guys that have explosive potential on returns, such as Sanders or some of the fast DB’s. Felix looks like he’s going in slow motion compared to some of these other guys.

  • srdan

    I think it could be a wrinkle used in the right situation to spark a team. I as a fan would absolutely love to see it. But I would hate to put him in an unfamiliar situation and expose him to a potential injury.

    Losing cam to this defense would be close to (please note I said close to) losing Aaron Smith a few years back. Our LBs are playing better now because cam is making it hard for qbs to step up in the pocket, and in the run game he is getting double teamed. You can’t ask for more out of a DE in this defense. He is pro-bowl worthy, but won’t make it.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Well said! I agree.

  • HopalongCassidy

    He carries the ball well for a big man. Very athletic with good balance. It might be interesting to see what he can do at fullback in short yardage situations.. I wonder if he could catch the ball coming out of the backfield as another wrinkle close to the goal line ? That would be a real surprise for a defense. Oh well, it’s a lot of fun dreaming up these scenarios even if they will never likely happen !

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Not watching every play, but Cam is making an Aaron Smith type difference. Gone are the videos of Ziggy getting knocked yards out of a whole by one man.

  • charles

    The Steel refrigerator and should be taken seriously.

  • charles

    Quietly our special teams are playing excellent football. Except Mesko. We see what this Aussie punter is capable of, he needs consistency.