As you might expect, replacing someone as talented as Cam Heyward is not a one man job.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ All-Star defensive end has been ruled out for at least this week by Mike Tomlin. Someone will have to officially start for him in the gamebook but in practice, that role will be shared jointly by Ricardo Mathews and Javon Hargrave.
Tomlin praised both in today’s press conference. He reiterated what it was that made him and the Steelers want to sign Mathews in the offseason.
“His ridiculous motor. He’s got a motor, he’s highly conditioned for a guy of his size. Those are things we liked. He’s a good teammate. He’s a hard worker. We’re excited abut the opportunity that could be presented to him and others given the misfortune that Cam’s dealing with.”
And Tomlin had nothing but good things to say for the rookie Hargrave, compliments that don’t happen easily under him.
“I think just in general, his arrow’s been pointed up continually over the course of the first five games. I thought last Sunday was his best performance and it’s reasonable to think that’s going to continue.”
Because both have played well, and given the magnitude of how difficult it is to replace someone like Heyward with one man, the job will be a committee. That’s what Tomlin hinted at.
“I think it remains to be seen. We’re going to meet a little bit this afternoon and talk about it. The reality is that who starts is probably irrelevant. It’s probably going to be a mix of guys and that mix is going to be determined by situation and circumstances.”
The reality is that Mathews will likely be the starter in the Steelers’ base 3-4 with Hargrave often at nose tackle. In nickel, Hargrave will see the majority of playing time in nickel. When Heyward went done, Hargrave played 22 snaps and Mathews played 13.
The good news is the Dolphins’ offensive line is a mess and is beat up even more this week. Laremy Tunsil injured his ankle getting out of the shower, a microcosm for the team’s entire season, and Branden Albert is also dealing with an ankle and an illness that is “not spreading,” which sounds as cheerfully optimistic as your car “not veering off a cliff.”
Ryan Tannehill was sacked six times Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, matching what Tennessee had done for the first month of the season. It’s too bad Heyward won’t be around to dominate them the way he did the San Diego Chargers last season. But the Steelers should be able to manage.