I frankly have a hard time understanding why Pittsburgh Steelers seventh-year defensive end Cameron Heyward does not get more national attention and praise than he does. When he does get the primetime spotlight, sure, an announcer like Chris Collinsworth or Jon Gruden will sing his praises. But he remains an overlooked star nationally.
The veteran shone last night under the lights at Heinz Field, recording three tackles and two sacks, his sixth and seventh of the season, which leads the team. He now has recorded at least seven sacks in each of the past three seasons in which he was healthy.
The 2016 season would be the exception, during which he was limited to only seven games. He recorded three sacks that year, and ironically, all three of them came during a primetime game against the Chiefs. Yet even when he lights it up for a nationwide audience, it doesn’t seem to draw him greater attention.
But he doesn’t need any greater appeal in Pittsburgh, where he is appropriately appreciated for the dominant force that he is. And amazingly, he may actually be having the best season of his career. He is certainly on pace for the most sacks of his career, given that his career-high is just a half-sack away, and he has six games to reach that point.
In fact, he is on pace to record double-digit sacks, which would make him just the second defensive lineman in team history to do so in a single season—that is, since sacks became an official statistic in the 1982 season.
The only one to ever do it in the history of the franchise was Keith Willis, who is also the only other lineman in team history to record at least seven sacks in three separate seasons. The New Jersey native recorded 59 sacks from 1982 to 1991 for the Steelers, including 14 in 1983, 12 in 1986, and seven in 1991. He ranks sixth in team history in sacks.
Kimo von Oelhoffen, Ray Seals, and Aaron Smith are the only other linemen to record at least eight sacks in a season. Oelhoffen and Seals each did it once in Pittsburgh—Seals’ 8.5 is third-most behind Willis’ two best years—while Smith hit eight twice.
Smith’s 44 sacks are the second-most by a lineman in team history, even though he was not known as a pass rusher. Third all-time until last night was Brett Keisel with 30. Heyward entered the game tied with 30, but his two now brings him into 11th place in team history.
One more sack would give him 33, passing Clark Haggans for the 10th-most in Steelers history. From there, four more would see him pass both Lawrence Timmons and Kevin Greene, but after that is a jump up to Smith’s 44, a mark that is probably safe at least until next year.