Cam Heyward gave props to the players along the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense who stepped up in his absence. Heyward, after missing the back half of last year with a torn pectoral muscle, credited two names in particular. Ryan Shazier and Stephon Tuitt.
“I thought Tuitt took that next step,” Heyward told Missi Matthews over on the team site. “Shazier became more vocal. He had to take more of a leadership role as well. You see guys like Mike Mitchell and Will Gay always doing it. You saw an urgency from their point of view and they stepped up big the whole year.”
Heyward was – and now is – the heart and soul of the Steelers’ front seven. He’s one of the longest tenured Steelers in that group, only running behind the ageless James Harrison, who is considered more of a leader with his actions, not his words. Though losing him was a crushing blow, the team is better off for it in the long-run by forcing guys like Tuitt to embrace new roles.
“When one guy does step out, multiple guys have to step up.”
The timing of Heyward’s injury couldn’t have been worse, not that there’s really ever good timing for such things. He was lost after the crushing loss to the Dallas Cowboys, gutting out the rest of the game after tearing his pec in the first half. But the defense rallied and turn things around and so did the team, winning the last seven games of the regular season.
Now, they return healthy and with another year under their belts. Crucial developments for Tuitt, Javon Hargrave, and L.T. Walton. The Steelers added Tyson Alualu, arguably the best defensive linemen free agent signing of the three they’ve made in the last three seasons (Cam Thomas, Ricardo Mathews).
Pittsburgh finished tied for 18th in run defense last year, allowing 4.3 yards per carry, a number I’m sure they’re aiming to improve upon.