He may have been snubbed by the voters of the Pro Bowl, in part because of the archaic manner in which they construct their voting categories, but the Associated Press was not one to leave Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward off of their own recognition list.
In fact, the seventh-year player was awarded a first-team designation on the All-Pro list after failing to be named to the Pro Bowl. He is one of four players who made the All-Pro list despite not making the Pro Bowl this year, the other most notable probably being the Vikings’ safety, Harrison Smith.
It is hard, after all, to leave someone off the list when he has 12 sacks at a position that is not supposed to put up such numbers. He also recorded 45 tackles and forced two fumbles, the latter of which is the most in his career, as is, of course, the sack total.
And I would also like to add that I enjoyed seeing Cameron Jordan of the Saints get similar recognition. Jordan was a fellow first-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft with Heyward in what was one of the greatest drafts for 3-4 defensive ends in NFL history. In case you don’t remember, J.J. Watt was also in that round, as were Muhammad Wilkerson and Corey Liuget, and that is just the top 32 picks.
Heyward has been flying just under the radar for years now, and yet even this year still managed to be snubbed by the Pro Bowl. One wonders if that will change next season now that he has earned All-Pro honors to help in his name recognition.
Heyward did not just make personal history, but also team history, as he is the first 3-4 defensive lineman with the Steelers to ever make the All-Pro list. Aaron Smith never did it. Casey Hampton never did it. Keith Willis never did it. We can go on, but you get the point.
Of course, Joe Greene frequently made the first-team All-Pro team, specifically five times in his career, to go along with a number of second-team nods and 10 Pro Bowl selections. L.C. Greenwood and Ernie Stautner also have made first-team All-Pro in the past.
But he is the first Steelers defensive player since Troy Polamalu in 2011 to do so as well. Both Polamalu and James Harrison made it in 2010, and in 2008. I’m not sure where this most recent drought on the defensive side of the ball ranks, but it’s probably up there in the past 50 years.
It’s quite easy to feel good about Heyward’s success and honors this year, because he makes it easy. He is also the team’s recipient of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for the work that he does off the field. But it’s nice to see him recognized for the work that he does on it as well.