Cam Heyward was drafted to be an All-Star but even with that vision in mind, I think he’s surpassed expectations. Assuming he stays healthy and has a Heyward-like season in 2019, he’ll become the 7th player in franchise history to have 50 career sacks with the team.
Today, he sits at 45 of them through the first eight years of his career. Of course, he was one of the last rookies to be brought along the old-school way, not starting a game his first two seasons. Since being inserted into the lineup in 2013, he has 42.5 sacks, an average of a little more than seven per season. The highmark came two years ago when he finished with 12 of them. He followed that up with eight in 2018.
Here’s how the top six in Steelers’ history look:
1. James Harrison – 80.5
2. Jason Gildon – 77
3. Joey Porter – 60
4. Keith Willis – 59
5. LaMarr Woodley – 57
6. Greg Lloyd – 53.5
7. Cam Heyward – 45
Last season, Heyward passed Aaron Smith’s career mark of 44. It’s possible, probably really, that he’ll move ahead of Lloyd after this season. While he’ll never touch Harrison’s mark, it’s possible by the end of his career, he ends up in third place in the record books. Should he finish his career with more than 59, he’ll hold the franchise record for sacks by a defensive linemen.
Despite the hard-nosed position that he plays, Heyward has done a great job of taking care of his body. Aside from a freak torn pectoral in 2016 that limited him to just seven games, he’s played in 79 of a possible 80 games since becoming a full-time starter.
On the defensive side of the ball and in the locker room, he’s viewed as a leader with a great attitude, desire to win, and toughness backed up by production.
Of course, the numbers are a bit skewed with how “new” sacks are. The NFL didn’t make them an official regular season stat until 1982 meaning the entire Steel Curtain missed out on having a calculated number. They were logged for the playoffs though. For example, Joe Greene is credited with seven career playoff sacks, including a whopping four in their 1978 Super Bowl winning season. Dwight White has nine, LC Greenwood 12.5, and Jack Ham with three. Surely Greene and probably Greenwood finished with enough sacks to put them in the top five but there doesn’t seem to be an effort made by the league to go back and try to calculate those numbers.