2016 South Side Questions: Will Iron Man Heyward Miss His First Game?

Training camp has ended, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have reverted back to taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While training camp might have seen a lot of work put into the team and the roster, there is plenty left to be done.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well, since training camp is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is really one that lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the preseason looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they head into a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Question: Will Cameron Heyward’s high ankle sprain force him to miss the first game of his career?

The Steelers drafted defensive end Cameron Heyward in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, with the 31st-overall pick, and since then, he has been old reliable—or more specifically, old available, because, in five NFL seasons thus far, he has never missed a game, and, really, hardly ever been injured at all.

Granted, it may pale in comparison to the 10th-year veteran William Gay’s streak of 144 straight regular season games played since he was drafted, but five full seasons of exemplary health, and, conjointly, conditioning, is nothing to sneeze at, totaling 80 games in the regular season without missing a beat.

The sixth-year defensive end, however, suffered what seems to be a high ankle sprain in the early stages of the second quarter on Friday night against the Saints in New Orleans, and, as we all know, such injuries can be tricky, nor are they easy to play through, at least without much effectiveness.

Heyward has vowed that he will be there for the Steelers on opening day a couple of weeks from now, but as we also should be aware, the player in question often tends to be the least reliable source for a timeline making his way back from an injury.

Especially when taking into consideration the position that he plays, and the beating that he might be subject to on every play, it is pretty remarkable that he has proven so durable through the first five seasons of his career, also demonstrating his endurance if you look at his snap counts the past two seasons. But it would be foolish to deny that his consecutive games played streak is not in jeopardy.

This is a question that will be lingering over the course of the next couple of weeks, but the truth is that the Steelers would be better able to stand such a blow this year in comparison to last year. Stephon Tuitt dealt with an ankle injury in the preseason, returned, and then suffered another that caused him to miss two games.

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