It’s only a matter of time before Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward is signed to a contract extension and following his best season as a professional in 2014 that included him being tied for the team lead in sacks with the now-retired Jason Worilds, the former first-round selection out of Ohio State keeps an interesting mindset when it comes to 2015.
“I hope last year wasn’t a breakout season because I think I can achieve way more,” Heyward said recently, according to Robert Klemko of Monday Morning Quarterback. “I still have a mentality where I think of myself as a bust. I’ve got to prove everybody wrong including myself. I want to get better, and I want to shut people up.”
In an attempt to take that next step in his improvement, Heyward enlisted the offseason coaching services of former NFL coach and 3-4 expert, Ted Cottrell. He wasn’t the only Steelers defensive lineman to do that, however, as according to Klemko, nose tackle Steve McLendon, defensive end Cam Thomas and nose tackle Daniel McCullers also spent a week and a half with Heyward learning about winning one-on-ones, with a priority being placed on proper hand placement.
“We’re making a conscious effort to make sure we’re optimizing our chances to get to the quarterback,” Heyward says. “We picked Coach’s brain and asked where we could improve. A set of eyes outside of the organization can really open your eyes.”
While several might point out that defensive end Stephon Tuitt wasn’t listed in that group of Steelers defensive linemen that worked out with Cottrell in Arizona this offseason, it’s important to keep in mind that he reportedly got a lot of offseason work in with former NFL sack artist Chuck Smith, who registered 58.5 sacks as a defensive end over the course of nine seasons in the league.
The Steelers are expected to use a lot more one-gap defensive line schemes this upcoming season under new defensive coordinator Keith Butler in an effort to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks and create more splash plays. It’s exciting to think about the improvement that the defensive line might make this year with Heyward leading the way. The defensive unit undoubtedly needs more turnovers and sacks this season if they’re going to compete for another Lombardi Trophy in 2015.