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.