As it turns out, Cameron Heyward is still pretty good, as evidenced by his work for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Bengals, even if he recorded just one tackle. Most of his work came in the pass rush, with one such rush ending in a sack and a forced fumble, though Cincinnati managed to recover the ball. Including the regular season, it was his eighth sack of the 2015 season.
His first significant highlight came in the middle of the Bengals’ second drive, on a first and 10 play on which he was able to bully his way back into the pocket to force AJ McCarron to toss the ball away. Lined head up over the left guard, Heyward simply bull rushed the man across from him, quickly putting him on skates, which forced the quarterback to scramble out of the pocket.
Heyward’s sack came later in the game, about five minutes into the second quarter on a second and 11 play. Running out of their base package, the Steelers set Heyward shaded off of left tackle, but after chasing the tackle wide, he looped inside all the way around the right guard, who had flowed to his left, getting a straight shot at McCarron, knocking the ball out of his hand as he brought him down for a loss of 11.
The defense got off the field after that play, and came back a few minutes later to force a three-and-out, stopping the run for a loss of three on first down and ending the drive with an interception. In between, Heyward pressured McCarron again by bull rushing the center and knocking the quarterback down as he desperately fired off a wild pass into the grass.
The fifth-year defensive end had his work cut out for him on a short screen pass later in the third quarter, but he managed to power through the center again through the A gap, getting his hand up to try to influence McCarron’s horizontal pass, which was complete for a first down on third and three.
Heyward recorded yet another knockdown of McCarron midway through the fourth quarter by running a wide arc off the left side of the offense, but the quarterback managed to get the ball out for a crucial 18-yard completion on third and long, which was a key moment in the game.
He recorded one last pressure at the two-minute warming up the A gap by taking advantage of the interior linemen trying to pass him off from guard to center, with the result being an incomplete pass, but McCarron found his wide receiver on the following play for the go-ahead score.
Heyward may not have filled the stat sheet—the inside linebacker did a nice job of containing the run on all but the one long run—but the veteran end consistently made his presence felt against the pass, using a variety of schemes to create pressure, as has become his forte.