The calendar has now flipped over to July and that means the Pittsburgh Steelers annual training camp will be getting underway in Latrobe later this month. As usual, we have several series planned to get you ready for this year’s training camp and mine will center around preview profiles of 50 players over the course of the next 25 days. Most of these profiles will be on players who were under contract with the team in 2016.
Up second in this series is a 2017 preview profile of defensive end Cameron Heyward.
Intro: Heyward enters his seventh year in the league following a 2016 season that included him missing more than half the season due to injuries. In fact, he entered the 2016 regular season nursing a high ankle sprain suffered during the preseason. By Week 4 of the season, Heyward was back to his normal self and played extremely well in the team’s win over the Kansas City Chiefs that included him registering three sacks and seven total tackles. A hamstring injury suffered the following week forced him to miss the Steelers next two games and a torn pectoral muscle in Week 10 ultimately ended his season.
Current Strengths: Heyward has developed his ability to take on multiple blockers both as a base 3-4 end and nickel interior lineman. He plays well as a one-gap player and within the scheme of the defense and is usually assignment sound. He also does a great job of staying square to the line of scrimmage and on his feet while using his long arms to disengage. He always can be spotted chasing the football as well.
Current Weaknesses: As a whole, Heyward doesn’t have many weaknesses in his game. However, if you want to nitpick, you could say that his play against the run could stand to be a little more consistent. With that said, Heyward did manage to register 6 tackles against the run last season that resulted in either no gain or lost yardage and he managed to do that in just 7 games played.
2017 Outlook: A return to full health in 2017 should bode well for Heyward, who has registered 17.5 sacks in the last 39 regular season games he’s played in. Another 7-plus sacks in 2017 isn’t out of the question for him in addition to double-digit run tackles for no gains or losses. The addition of defensive lineman Tyson Alualu will hopefully result in Heyward only needing to play roughly 75% of all defensive snaps in 2017. In short, a stat-line similar to the one Heyward posted in 2014 should be expected.
2017 Base Salary: $5,000,000 plus $3,000,000 roster bonus
2017 Health Status: No known ailments exiting offseason program
2016 Health Status: Missed two games with injured hamstring and 7 more games with a torn pectoral muscle
2016 Regular Season Snaps Played: 364 of 1,046
2016 Stat That Matters: All three sacks of 2016 season came in Week 4 game against Chiefs