Cameron Heyward Making History Among Steelers Defensive Linemen

I frankly have a hard time understanding why Pittsburgh Steelers seventh-year defensive end Cameron Heyward does not get more national attention and praise than he does. When he does get the primetime spotlight, sure, an announcer like Chris Collinsworth or Jon Gruden will sing his praises. But he remains an overlooked star nationally.

The veteran shone last night under the lights at Heinz Field, recording three tackles and two sacks, his sixth and seventh of the season, which leads the team. He now has recorded at least seven sacks in each of the past three seasons in which he was healthy.

The 2016 season would be the exception, during which he was limited to only seven games. He recorded three sacks that year, and ironically, all three of them came during a primetime game against the Chiefs. Yet even when he lights it up for a nationwide audience, it doesn’t seem to draw him greater attention.

But he doesn’t need any greater appeal in Pittsburgh, where he is appropriately appreciated for the dominant force that he is. And amazingly, he may actually be having the best season of his career. He is certainly on pace for the most sacks of his career, given that his career-high is just a half-sack away, and he has six games to reach that point.

In fact, he is on pace to record double-digit sacks, which would make him just the second defensive lineman in team history to do so in a single season—that is, since sacks became an official statistic in the 1982 season.

The only one to ever do it in the history of the franchise was Keith Willis, who is also the only other lineman in team history to record at least seven sacks in three separate seasons. The New Jersey native recorded 59 sacks from 1982 to 1991 for the Steelers, including 14 in 1983, 12 in 1986, and seven in 1991. He ranks sixth in team history in sacks.

Kimo von Oelhoffen, Ray Seals, and Aaron Smith are the only other linemen to record at least eight sacks in a season. Oelhoffen and Seals each did it once in Pittsburgh—Seals’ 8.5 is third-most behind Willis’ two best years—while Smith hit eight twice.

Smith’s 44 sacks are the second-most by a lineman in team history, even though he was not known as a pass rusher. Third all-time until last night was Brett Keisel with 30. Heyward entered the game tied with 30, but his two now brings him into 11th place in team history.

One more sack would give him 33, passing Clark Haggans for the 10th-most in Steelers history. From there, four more would see him pass both Lawrence Timmons and Kevin Greene, but after that is a jump up to Smith’s 44, a mark that is probably safe at least until next year.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • PaeperCup

    “One more sack would give him 33, passing Clark Haggans for the 10th-most in NFL history.”

    I assume you meant Steelers history?

  • rystorm06

    Heyward is a beast. I’ve even been thinking lately that he may be better than Aaron Smith was.

  • PittShawnC

    and Hargrave already has as many sacks as Casey Hampton had…in his first six seasons.

    This DL generates a pass rush we’ve never had before from the position. Could very well be the difference maker vs TB

  • PaeperCup


  • Joseph Shaw

    Curious: Did they not keep track of sacks during Mean Joe’s era? Because I would think he’d had a few.

  • Andrew

    Stats only became an official stat in 1982

  • Phil Brenneman II

    You know in the past I thought Heyward was slightly overrated by our fans. Not that he was a bad player or anything but never truly dominant either. Now though, I think he is playing to the level a lot of Steelers fans were putting him at before.

    The guy is an absolute monster this season and while I don’t watch much of other teams he has to be in the convo for one of the best defensive linemen in the game or at least as far as 3-4 guys go. I really thought him and Tuitt were close coming into this season and Tuitt would possibly be the better of the 2 near the end of it but whether because of injuries or Cam just going nuts I don’t see it. Tuitt still has some big shoes to try fit in.

  • ryan72384

    I don’t remember the 80s but I’ve been told Keith Willis was a beast in the early 80s. I remember he was on the Steelers D line on Tecmo Super Bowl which was based on the 90′ season and his speed was so slow I was always like man this guy must be terrible in real life lol. My dad would always be like no Keith Willis, David Little and Bryan Hinkle were all better than they are on this game. Gerald Williams and Donald Evans were the other 2 linemen and they were both so much faster. In a world of Madden I still think that’s the greatest football game ever made lol.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Sacks were not an official statistic until 1982, as Andrew said, and thus don’t officially count for anything, but many teams did their own backtracking. The Steelers credit Joe Greene with 66 career sacks, fourth-most in team history. L.C. Greenwood had 73.5. The only two with more are James Harrison and Jason Gildon. Dwight White also had 46, which ranked 9th. Joe Greene also holds the team record for most sacks in a game with 5, in 1972.

  • J Jones

    Hats off to the organization for acquiring these guys. Finding talent like our d line has without having high draft picks is crazy. Even guys like 96 and 94 are helping in big ways.

  • Gyborg

    Our best defender – absolute stud. Seems like a lot of great d-linemen in the league recently though. Nearly every team has a great DE. He gets overlooked for the praise he deserves but there’s others in his boat too.