With the Pittsburgh Steelers having completed the first portion of their season, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this year and give out some midseason player evaluations.
The team has had a rocky but ultimately successful season to date, coming out of the first six games with a winning record despite being 1-2-1 just two weeks ago. Coming off of consecutive strong victories with improve play from both sides of the ball, things are looking up.
The offense has done its part for the most part, but has taken some long vacations. Their disappearing acts in the second half was perplexing, but that has improved. Defensively, the secondary is seemingly becoming a bit more stable after being nothing short of terrible previously, but there are absolutely some real concerns remaining.
Player: Cameron Heyward, DE
It’s hard to say that really any one defensive player has fully lived up to his expectations so far this year, and that includes Cameron Heyward, an All-Pro last season. Through the first six games, he has recorded 19 tackles with a forced fumble and two and a half sacks.
He has certainly not been a problem for the defense, but he is a player who is supposed to be part of the solution more often than he has been (he’s paid like it as well). He actually managed to go without recording a statistic of any kind against the Bengals on Sunday.
13 of Heyward’s tackles have come against the run. Of those 13, eight are technically regarded as stops, though one was a quarterback scramble. Another was a one-yard run on second and two. He forced a fumble against the Kansas City Chiefs as he tackled Chris Conley following a two-yard reception.
He has uncharacteristically actually missed a couple of tackles so far this season, but given the widespread nature of that issue throughout the defense, his rare misplays are hardly notable in the grand scheme of things. If there is anybody whose tackling should be a concern, right now it’s actually Joe Haden.
His best game so far has been against the Atlanta Falcons, during which he recorded a sack and a half. He also had five total pressures on the quarterback in that game. He also played well against the Baltimore Ravens, albeit in a losing effort. The pass rush is not the concern for him, and hasn’t been for some time, though he should be having more success than he is currently having.
His intangibles are irreplaceable, however, both on and off the field. The energy that he provides through his own performance and the leadership that he displays both in the locker room and through the media are just what the team needs.