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Steelers vs Eagles Film Review: Cameron Heyward


Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward emerged as one of the team’s key players on the defensive side of the ball last year, but he hasn’t quite been able to continue the pace he set for himself last season thus far.

Through three preseason games, his play up to this point has in general been fairly pedestrian, though slowly improving through each game. At least it seemed to be improving early on in last week’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles, but it proved to be a rather uneven performance.

His disgust and frustration over the defense’s performance against the Eagles—particularly their reserves during the first two drives of the second half, is quite understandable after going over the game again, though I have a hard time believing that his play will stay as it has been once we move beyond the preseason.

Considering he was playing against Evan Mathis for most of the night, admittedly, it does make more sense that Heyward would have his ups and downs. Mathis is one of the best interior linemen in the league, but Heyward had the upper hand on his particular play, making excellent use of his reach to keep disengaged and moving down the line to swallow up LeSean McCoy after a gain of one.

It was at that point that I initially began to feel some anticipation over what would come next for Heyward during this game, but admittedly there was just as much bad as good to follow, if not more bad than good.

It would only be few plays later that he would be dominated by Mathis and Jason Peters, who double teamed him a few times throughout the night and completely stymied him every time.

It’s one thing to occupy two defenders, but it doesn’t serve much purpose when you get annihilated. Heyward was pushed several yards down the line and onto the ground on this occasion.

Above is another instance, still from the first quarter, of Heyward being completely neutralized on a running down by Mathis, this time after receiving a chip in support by center Jason Kelce. The ball carrier was able to run right behind Heyward’s back on this play.

Heyward and the rest of the Steelers’ starting defense was still in the game throughout the third quarter. That fact is indicative of the struggles that the unit had as a whole on the night, the performance demanding further reps in the hopes of seeing improvement.

The Eagles’ second-team defense scored touchdowns on both of their drives, but at least Heyward had one sort of highlight play in the process.

On the first play of their second drive of the half, he blew up guard Andrew Gardner, knocking him to the ground, and then crashing into center David Molk to allow Troy Polamalu to fly in and make the tackle for a loss of six on the play.

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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.
  • Hampwood

    Dude way too many mentions of Heyward being double teamed as he was taken out of this game easily by one lineman most of the time. Plus that last play that that you’re thinking he “blew up guard Andrew Gardner” – lol no, Gardner steps steps on Jarvis Jones’s foot which is also why Jones fell to the ground.

  • Hampwood

    Posted this on the Worilds post didn’t realize there was a Heyward review up. “You wanna talk about someone having a bad preseason. I know he played against some of the best offensive lineman in the NFL but c’mon man. Aside from a hurry and a couple of stops where the eagle player ran into his waiting arms (@ok so the first play reviewed was pretty good) he channeled his inner Ziggy Hood as just-another-guy. This is a player Steelers beat writers have been preaching praises of having an up coming pro bowl season and he was constantly on the ground in this game. Tuitt has looked better IMO. I’m not calling for his head just really disappointed and I think we need to temper our expectations of him this year. He’s a middle of the pack player and I’m ok with that, it’s much better than what Hood was for us.”

  • steeltown

    Bad game all around at every level of the Defense. Heyward is not one that im concerned about, he’s shown he’s more than capable when it counts.

  • Jacque Strappe

    Keisel simply wouldn’t have looked like that. Sure hoping that this isn’t a sign of things to come. If Heyward can’t be dominant like he ended last season, this defense is in major trouble.

  • Hampwood

    Watch his post game interviews, this is not a guy acting like this is a preseason game. He is giving it his all.

  • Hampwood

    Keisel is another we need to hold back expectations on as well. Sure the Steelers may have planned on having him back the whole time but they were ready to move on as well. His play from last year and his upcoming 36 year old season is concerning.

  • steeltown

    You’re judging this guy who has proven to be a force on Defense by one bad preseason, everyone played poorly against PHI

  • Hampwood

    He wasn’t dominant and yea it might be easier for him to get to the quarterback going up against a right tackle rather than left tackle which are generally better run blockers than pass protectors. Tuitt is really looking like a stud against the run game and I think he’s much better suited for the left side so Heyward better get used to the right side because I think the coaching staff knows who their better strong side defender and it’s not Heyward.

  • Hampwood

    He’s played bad all preseason man. I’m not the knee jerk reaction type. I’ve watched all of his snaps and he’s just getting man handled even by back ups. I was always a big fan of his because when he came into the game he would do something Ziggy Hood never did which is make an impact from time to time. It’s time to stop comparing him to Hood and start comparing him to the “dominant” tag you keep giving him and the pro bowl label beat writers keep giving him. If you’re not disappointed then you have a really low standard and it must take one good play to get you to start singing praise of him.

  • Steelers12328882

    Of these highlights, how many are in the 3-4 alignment? ZERO! This 2-4-5 crap is ridiculous. It’s hard to judge Heyward or anyone else on the defense when they’re being forced to play in something that’s obviously not working. I don’t know the numbers but I’m guessing around 75% of the defense has been in Nickel so far this preseason. The season is about to start. Start playing the 3-4 again and concentrate on stopping the run.

  • steeltown

    Yep

  • ApexSteel

    I hope this puts an end to all anyone’s hope of moving to a 4-3. As you can see, it won’t work.

  • Hampwood

    Agree. Heyward and Tuitt are getting unfairly chipped off the line because of a lack of another lineman but it’s not consistent and Heyward need to start winning more one on one battles especially against the back ups.

  • Hampwood

    Lol that went out the window when we drafted Shazier…

  • ApexSteel

    That was actually the beginning of it for a lot of people on this site lol. They wanted Tuitt and Heyward at tackles, Worilds and Jones at D-ends with Shazier, Timmons, and Spence at Linebacker.

  • Hampwood

    Lol no way… Wow no love for McLendon

  • PA2AK

    Not sure he ever went one on one with anyone. There was always at least an initial double team on him. Still, your point is valid. However, we’ve seen him in games that matter. He will turn it up when it counts. Not real worried about Cam.

  • PA2AK

    Are you saying Keisel would have handled that up-tempo offense well…or just looked like a gassed hog out there?

  • PA2AK

    5 Things from this game…
    1 – You can’t underestimate the impact of game planning, especially in the NFL.
    2 – This was a good reminder that the 2-4-5 package is not a good option against the spread offenses. Hasn’t been in years past and won’t be this year. Please find a viable option He-Who-Needs-To-Retire.
    3 – Can’t wait for the real games to begin.
    4 – Off field distractions….are distractions.
    5 – Steelers Fans after anything bad – “The Sky is Falling!!!! The Sky is Falling!!!!”

  • Jacque Strappe

    Getting buried in the run game doesn’t take much stamina regardless of tempo.

  • dkoy85

    Just wait until the regular season. If his play doesn’t compare to last year than you can say you’re not the knee jerk reaction type. He’s been a good player for us and there’s no reason for us to believe he won’t return to last years form. After all it still is preseason.

  • ApexSteel

    THANK YOU! Everyone acts like we need to revert to the way we played defense in 04 to succeed. The NFL just isn’t that same as it was 10 years ago.

  • PA2AK

    but still, let me get this straight, you think Keisel would have looked better out there? At his age? After last year?

  • PA2AK

    I do like McLendon. Stat’s say he was pretty decent anyways. (I know this is all conjecture and what-ifs)…imagine last years D without the need for rookie ILBs, without a failing Hood, without a safety playing LB, without your other safety missing EVERY tackle when supporting the run, and without Mac’s injury. Not to mention that everyone forgets the positives when the Steelers go 8-8.

  • Jacque Strappe

    I think Keisel couldn’t have looked worse. Heyward has been awful this preseason. With the same prep as Heyward this preseason, I say yes, Keisel wouldn’t have been as bad as Heyward has been. It’s not like Keisel was poor last year when healthy. In limited snaps, my answer is yes, Keisel can still play at that level.

  • Jacque Strappe

    The sky is falling yet you call for someone’s retirement. Classic.

  • Hampwood

    I know what to expect. He’s been a good pass rusher and a below the line run defender. He’s been being called “dominant” and upcoming pro bowler and I think people need to take a step back. After every game so far he looks like he’s been sick to his stomach with how he’s played. Maybe he’s playing through something or maybe he’s being exposed against better competition from the left side. Either way he’s playing well below the line so far and there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that especially when he’s the first one to tell you.

  • cencalsteeler

    I know this is a Heyward thread, but I’m not sure why so many fans are down on JJ.
    Gif 1. Plugged the hole at the line. Rb sees nothing and turns right, forcing a nice stop by his teammates.
    Gif 2. Holds the blocker, sheds him and shoots down the line to help with the tackle.
    Gif 3. Pushes the arc (shotgun), turns the rb inside (what is supposed to happen), spin moves and helps assist on the tackle.
    Gif 4. Excellent penetration. Disrupts the back causing him to bounce the play outside. Troy with the nice tackle.
    JJ probably got 1 assist on the stat sheet in those 4 gifs, but was a contributor in each one of those gifs. That’s why stats are a tool and not a bible. I like the progression I see so far with JJ.

  • PA2AK

    I’ve been looking for LeBeau to pass the reigns to Butler for a few years now. Nothing against the old man…it actually pains me to say that needs to retire. In LeBeau We Trust has been my credo for so long its weird to think about his retirement…nevertheless…he needs to pass the torch. My opinion on that is not based on a single preseason game.

  • dkoy85

    For sure I agree. He definitely needs to take responsibility for his “below the line” play. But he played well for us last year, a lot better than he has this preseason, so I am saying that there is no need to get overly worried with his play. If he can’t put it together over the first 2 or 3 games then it’s time to get worried. Rants aren’t warranted during preseason.

  • PA2AK

    So if we are talking about limited snaps…I agree. Keisel won’t be too bad and I’m glad he’s back. Still though, kind of crazy to say he wouldn’t have been railroaded much worse if he was playing every snap after the first two drives. Last year was pretty evident that he can’t hold up to that tempo.

  • Hampwood

    He looks really bad tho. This is a guy people have pegged to make the pro bowl this year.

  • PA2AK

    He’s moving in the right direction for sure.

  • steeltown

    Yea and he was taking on Jason Peters the majority of the time

  • Steelers12328882

    He’s played up and down so far. Like everyone in this defense, it’s hard to judge them because they’re playing a 2-4-5. It’d be nice to see JJ’s progression in the 3-4. He’s not a DE and that’s basically what he’s being asked to play, and because of that he’s having trouble holding the edge and rushing the passer.

  • charles

    Its ‘preseason’ is lame. Nobody gets beat by their opponent because it is just preseason…

  • steeltown

    I get the feeling this may be his last rodeo

  • superfan

    I noticed this live. Jarvis wasn’t making a lot of tackles, but he was getting into the right positions and not making many mistakes.

    Oh, and on the third GIF, Shazier takes himself out of the play rather than taking on the center. Rookie mistake. Looks like he was trying to rely on his speed.

  • sean mcmartin

    Tommy kelly was cut by patsies..wonder if he could add more than kiesel will. guess we will never know.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I’m afraid I have to disagree. I saw Keisel looking like Heyward in gifs 2 and 3 too often last year, which was the main reason I was comfortable with them not bringing him back.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I’ll have an article on Jones later this week. I did see some positives.

  • cencalsteeler

    That’s why you guys get paid the big bucks! You and the rest of the team are damn good, I must say!!!! I know Alex got a lot of props during camp, but every writer here are a## kickers!!

  • PA2AK

    I second this…top notch all around.

  • Pete Johnson

    I haven’t watched the film as far as the 2-4-5 defenses, but it takes a special kind of bad to be graded as the worst 3-4 DE in all of football this preseason like PFF puts him at. 72nd out of 72. ( and for the record he graded fairly well last preseason, so spare me the ZOMG PFF sucks they know nothing nonsense) And can we stop using the “dominant” “legendary” “all pro” hyperbole stuff to describe Heyward just for a minute? He has had one year starting and I have not seen as much “domination” from him. That is a pretty high bar.

    Have I seen “very good” play from time to time that could eventually turn into “dominance”? yeah I have, but that is a pretty big leap that very few make. Right now he is a good solid player who needs to be more consistent, and where he goes from here is anyone’s guess.It was a good first round pick, but hold off on the HOF enshrinement talk until he actually is part of a good run defense at least.

  • Milliken Steeler

    Just to throw another log on the fire since we are finding new whipping boys to replace Hood, Dwyer etc.

    Hood is gone and no longer can be held responsible for the amount of yardage is the run game like he was last year. He actually was set to have his best year yet and where did he finish up with sacks despite being benched? He has looked real good by the way for the Jags in the 4-3 and you can never have enough people with a motor like his.

    Dwyer who people beat up regardless of his YPC versus our other backs and his propensity to have the longest runs….has now shot himself to second on the depth chart in AZ. The back ahead of him while talented is small for a starter and has been injured. I like Bell dont get me wrong but the shock I got last week…Dwyer did not give us.

    I think we should take it easy on some of our guys and there are people on here that are very objective,,,but others who read some posts and start regurgitating non stop.

    Lets see who does what as the season progresses and give people a faor chance before we designate our new whipping boys.

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