For as often as it might have seemed that Cameron Heyward faded into the background for the Pittsburgh Steelers last Saturday against the Baltimore Ravens, he certainly made a number of plays of the variety that don’t always show up on paper.
In fact, the defensive line as a whole played well, holding the Ravens to just 53 yards rushing on 25 plays—just 2.1 yards per carry—including four rushes for a loss. Perhaps Heyward wasn’t quite as physically present in the loss as many might have hoped, but he certainly played a solid game without making any obvious mistakes.
Remember that running play early on in which Steve McLendon blew up the center so completely off the snap that it caused Joe Flacco to trip over his lineman’s feet, preventing him from even handing off the ball? Heyward may not have made a tackle on the play, but watch what he did do.
Off the snap, the Ravens looked to throw a double team against Heyward with the left guard and left tackle, but the defensive end used great balance and strength to work between them, penetrating into the backfield and blowing up the running back to take him out of the play, leaving Flacco on his own.
Right after Justin Forsett managed to rip off a 14-yard carry between the Steelers’ two rookie defensive linemen, the Ravens were set up on the five-yard line with first and goal. Pittsburgh continued in its base defense on first down, with Heyward lining up across the left guard, skewed off his left shoulder.
On the snap, Sean Spence blitzed and occupied the guard’s focus as Heyward slipped around the left side. With the left tackle focusing on James Harrison around the edge, the defensive end slipped in free and got into Flacco’s face, forcing him to throw the ball away.
Heyward pressured Flacco again on the first play of the Ravens’ next drive, but he still managed to complete a 23-yard pass in the process. He took off around the left edge, leaving the left guard, Kelechi Osemele, with nothing to do as Harrison dropped into coverage. After working inside the left tackle, Heyward got to the quarterback, but not quickly enough.
Later in the drive, as the Ravens approached the end zone once again, Heyward was able to stand up and fight through a double team to hold his position against the run on first down, which allowed other defenders to come in and make the tackle after a gain of one yard.
On the next snap, Heyward ultimate got the better of Osemele again, ultimately winning the inside track with a straight line to the quarterback. He got home and got a piece of Flacco, how just barely got rid of the ball for an incompletion.