The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is 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 offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: What sort of season will we see from Cameron Heyward after missing much of last year due to injuries?
Through the first five years of his career, stalwart defensive end Cameron Heyward never missed a game, and hardly even missed a snap due to injury. It was hard enough over the course of the last two years to even get him off the field to get a breather and let a rotation handle things.
That is what made the 2016 season so dramatically different for the former first-round pick and the son of ‘Ironhead’ Heyward. He suffered an ankle injury during the preseason and had to push hard just to be ready for the season opener, but he was still limited by it.
In the second game of the season he suffered a knee injury that limited him again. He didn’t practice on the following Wednesday and was limited the following day, but went full at the end of the week and played against the Eagles.
A few games later came the hamstring injury, I believe as he went up in an attempt to deflect a pass against the Jets. He sat for the two games leading into the bye week, during which his teammates struggled without him.
Then two games into his return from his latest injury game the big pectoral injury against the Cowboys that ended his season. He was limited to just seven games and recorded 21 tackles with three sacks—all in the game against the Chiefs—with four passes defensed.
Heyward stayed engaged with the team through his injury and became another set of eyes for John Mitchell to coach the defensive linemen who were filling in for him. But it’s hard to deny that his body took a beating last season.
Which begs the question of how he will fare entering his seventh season as he turns 28 in another month, coming off of a pectoral injury. Will we see him pick up where he left off the year prior, beating down the door of a Pro Bowl? Or will we see lingering effects of what he has gone through the past season?