Cameron Heyward Puts His Stamp On The Defensive Line

By Matthew Marczi

I suspect that I would not be met with much resistance at this point if I were to sing the praises of Cameron Heyward and the growth that he has seen since entering the starting lineup this season.

I probably wouldn’t even get much of a fight if I were to claim that Heyward has quickly become the leader of the Steelers’ defensive front, which is what I am now doing.

This is now Heyward’s defensive line. He has put his stamp on it from the moment he took over the starting job. He is the one that makes the plays. But more importantly, he is the one setting the example for others to follow. It is his energy, his drive, his enthusiasm that feeds the rest of the line.

For as many quality games as he’s already played this season, perhaps none made it more obvious than the last, where he registered a career-high 10 tackles while notching his fourth sack of the year and deflecting his sixth pass.

Heyward registered the sack early on in the game, on the third play of the Dolphins’ first drive to force a punt. Obviously the pressure applied by both Jason Worilds and LaMarr Woodley limited quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a confined space, but Heyward driving the left guard back into the pocket was a common theme on the afternoon. The combination of factors here resulted in the sack.

Of course, sometimes that pressure doesn’t need to get home to make a difference. On this play late in the first half, Heyward kept his eyes in the pocket and angled his way into the passing lane. It allowed him to time his swat and bat the ball down. When the big guys get their hands up, good things tend to happen.

More impressive to me, however, are the plays that he refused to give up on. Twice during the game he dragged a running back down by his jersey from behind after somebody else missed a tackle.

He did it in the second quarter, as above, on a three-yard gain. Then he did it in the third quarter after several people failed to bring him down. Heyward hustled down the field to make this play, and you can rest assured that it was one that his coaches and his teammates took notice of. This team could use some more Cameron Heywards.

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

    We seriously needed a leader to emerge with Keisel nearing the end, thank god for Cam Heyward. He is next on the jersey wish list.

  • WilliamSekinger

    Amen. If Hood would develop just a little bit more great things could happen next year.

  • dkoy85

    The front 7 is looking just that much better. Fingers crossed we sign Worilds and Jones bulks up and keeps his speed.

  • SumnerYoung

    Cam needs be a Steeler for life. I also think he has defensive captain written all over him. It seems to me that he has a lot of leadership ability, and he will have no problem holding guys accountable for their mistakes. It just seems like he is that type of player that others will follow into battle.

  • Douglas Andrews

    It’s time to anoint that man as the next great DE. Let’s get him signed to a long term deal

  • Fritz Baughman

    Heyward = beast mode.

  • walter mason

    Forget about Hood. Time to move on. He is a good back-up and/or he can be rotated in fresh. I said this 2 years ago.

    This team will not go to the SB with good average players like Hood. We need more impact players like Cam. Tomlin is still waiting for Hood to develop.

  • steeltown

    Hood was on the Team that went to SB45, in fact he had 2sacks in the postseason that year, including one in the Super Bowl

    But, yes he is nowhere near as dominant as Cam Heyward and I doubt they extend him

  • JAMESH

    Ziggy Hood has reached his ceiling. Shame. Why does he always rush on his ‘tippy toes?” Negates all his strength.

  • JAMESH

    I think the reason they kept thinking Hood was capable and why DLine coach John Mitchell thought McLendon would excel at NT is because they were watching them in practice going up against our OLine. I’m looking forward to spring hoping they will try McLendon and Heyward as the DEs, and a real NT appears from heaven.

  • Lucus Rodriguez

    Id much rather see them move McClendon over to DE and draft a BIG NT or pick one up in FA

  • Lucus Rodriguez

    So now we sign him of THIS off season before he shines so much that we cant even dream of signing him. He could have a JJ Watt type season as far as batted balls and run stops next season. Don’t think he will get anywhere near 20 sacks though. ha. And if a good NT comes via draft of FA move McClendon to DE. that’s a solid D-Line.

  • Jeff

    I disagree that it’s time to move on. If the last 2 seasons taught us anything, it’s that depth is SO important. It seems like we’ve always had it until the last few years. Even though Ziggy wasn’t worth the first round pick we used on him, he can still be an adequate backup and can be used situationally. It’s not like we are forced to pay him huge money. I’m sure he knows just as much as anyone that he’s been a first round bust so far. There is no one behind him right now that is better, though. Keisel isn’t getting any younger either. It’s not the best situation, but getting rid of Ziggy just because he isn’t playing up to the “standard” isn’t going to help this team.

  • steeltown

    Good point…but only if the deal is truly a modest one, otherwise I’d get Keisel back on a 1yr vet minimum, sign Al Woods for cheap and continue to groom Arnfelt and N.Williams

  • steeltown

    Wouldn’t it be nice if Fangupo could be that base defense guy in his 3rd season..and as you mentioned have Heyward and McLendon as the ends, then in the sub packages take Fang out and just have Cam and McLendon in there

  • steeltown

    Would be nice, his base salary is well over $1MIL next season with a cap hit of over $2MIL, they could extend him with an initial low base salary (and high bonus) that would actually help clear some cap space in ’14

  • DrakePirate

    I agree with Walter, we should extend Hood as a back up .. he should be cheap after this season and move on and look for another impact starter … Hood will still be a solid swing/back/rotational guy which is always needed.

  • James Kling

    ZIGGY HOOT CAN JUMP 89 FEET IN THE AIR! I SEEN IT ON A YOUSE TUBE VIDEO!!!

  • Asmitty56

    But he has experience. Unless Al Woods all of a sudden becomes a viable starter, I would think Hood’s starting experience is important. Also you have to consider the fact that the Steelers have been playing a lot more 4-3 under, and 4-2 with two down linemen and having our linemen one gap a lot more. This benefits Hood and Heyward a lot because it allows them to shoot the gap and make plays rather than having to control their linemen and shut down gaps, for Hood it’s difficult seeing as he has average height and assumingly average arm length. Hopefully Hood isn’t too expensive and he is resigned, if not I’d love for the Steelers to get ahold of RaShede Hageman who is going to be a freak lineman.

  • http://pittsburghsportsinat.blogspot.com/ bgsteelfan

    Hood, at this point in his career, is likely exactly what we’ve seen. It’s just not there. He is a solid backup and fill-in starter, but nothing more. I do think we need to explore keeping him for that role though.

  • Jeff

    Agreed, I think we should be able to keep him fairly cheap which is why I say we should keep him. If someone wants to pay him more, let him walk…

  • Douglas Andrews

    Enough can’t be said about the Hustle plays from Heyward. A good measure of an impact player if when he plays sideline to sideline!

  • walter mason

    I should have said “go to the SB again”.

  • walter mason

    I agree completely just dont expect him to develop into a dominant player. We need to move away from the thought of Hood developing.

  • MC

    He could of been doing this as a starter last year. I knew this kid would be a franchise DE from draft day. Something about seeing tears in his eyes when the steelers picked him resonated really well with me too.

  • walter mason

    I agree

  • MC

    Once again, it shows how ignorant some steeler fans can be when many were calling this guy a bust only going into this third year! a lot of fans have no clue.

  • Jazz

    Hmm! Isn’t amazing what some of these guys can actually do if they only got some playing time. Hey Mike Tomlin!Lets see what Markus Wheaton can do.

  • http://www.amazon.com/The-Sibyl-Reborn-ebook/dp/B009KNQHSM James P. Kelly

    +1,000!!!