The Pittsburgh Steelers had Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt on the field together for more than two snaps yesterday for the first time this season, and the two of them combined for two and a half of the defense’s four sacks on the day. Heyward has been playing lights out all season, and that continued in Baltimore.
It was a big game for the Steelers’ defensive captain, pacing the defensive line and finishing tied for third on the team with his four tackles. He also recorded his second and third sacks of the season—drawing even with Anthony Chickillo for the team lead—and recorded his first forced fumble (and recovery) since…exactly two years ago. Against the Ravens.
Heyward may well be playing the best football of his entire career, as a matter of fact, and you really could not ask for anything more than that a season after he was plagued by injuries, including a season-ending pectoral tear that forced him to missed the final 10 games of the year, including the postseason.
There is always a concern when it comes to players returning from injuries, because, despite the fact that the medical aspect has continually improved, there are unpredictable and unquantifiable factors involved. Many players are simply ‘never the same’, even today, after injuries.
That certainly doesn’t appear to be the case for the captain, who has shown no signs of injury, nor of slowing down any time soon. Earlier this year, I wrote about the fact that he essentially gave himself a mulligan for his sixth season a year ago, describe this year as his “sixth-ish”.
Not only did he suffer the pectoral injury in the ninth game last season, he also suffered multiple ankle injuries and a hamstring injury, the latter of which also kept him out for two weeks. He played in just seven games—some of them only parts—yet he still compiled 21 tackles, three sacks, and four passes defensed.
While he has yet to record a pass defensed this year, he now has 16 tackles through four games, putting him on pace for 64, which would be a career high. His three sacks tie last year’s output and set him up for a pace to reach a new career high, possibly even reaching double digits. And, of course, he has his first forced fumble in two years. Actually just the third of his career.
In addition to the two sacks, Heyward also recorded at least a couple of pressures during the game that I can recall from memory, but we will have to get back to further analysis later on in the week. I’m sure he will be the subject of a film session, if not by myself, then by somebody else.