When the word captain is mentioned what traits come to mind? Leadership, accountability, passion and intelligence are all traits that a captain must possess and Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive lineman Cameron Heyward embodies all of those traits. Perhaps one of the more important traits for a captain is the ability to lead his team through tough times and the Steelers have faced a lot of tough questions over the last two weeks about the loss of Stephon Tuitt.
Would the defense still be able to defend the run and rush the passer without the services of one of their best defensive lineman? Like any true captain would, Heyward answered that question head on against the Miami Dolphins on Monday night.
Even without Tuitt by his side, Heyward finished Monday’s game with six total tackles, two quarterback hits, one sack and one pass defense as he put together a complete performance.
Heyward gave Dolphins rookie guard Michael Deiter a ‘welcome to the NFL’ moment on Monday night as the veteran defensive lineman had his way with the rookie guard throughout the entirety of the night. Heyward quickly beats the rookie guard with a swipe on the play above and is able to get to Ryan Fitzpatrick for sack number 4.5 of the season. Heyward has now compiled 24.5 sacks since 2017 and only 12 defensive linemen can say they have recorded more sacks than the Steelers’ captain through this time span.
The Steelers’ defensive lineman was not done with Deiter yet as he also beat him earlier in the game as well. This time Heyward beats the rookie guard inside and is able to lay a good lick on Fitzpatrick. The Dolphins’ quarterback is able to get rid of the football just before Heyward can get to him but the pass falls incomplete down the field.
Intelligence is another trait that I spoke of earlier and you would be hard pressed to find a more intelligent player on this defense than Heyward. This play occurred late in the fourth quarter with the Dolphins’ fate all but sealed though Heyward was nowhere near done yet. Watch as Heyward sniffs out this screen pass right from the snap, he does not take the bait and rush the pocket, instead he waits for the running back to spill out before nearly coming away with an interception. When it comes to intelligence, Heyward’s score would be off the charts as his football IQ is definitely one of his more underrated traits.
Here is the play that really accounts for all the leadership traits as Heyward sets the tone on this fourth down and stops Fitzpatrick short of the sticks. Heyward checks off all the boxes when it comes to accountability, leadership, intelligence and passion on the play above as he drifts towards the sideline and is able to stop Fitzpatrick’s bootleg run short of the sticks. This play would eventually be the nail in the coffin for a potential Dolphins’ comeback and who else but the captain to deliver the fatal blow.
Without Tuitt, many wondered if the Steelers’ defense would be able to perform to the same caliber of play they had shown earlier in the season but Heyward, the heart and soul of this defense had no problem silencing the doubters. While he may not get the mainstream attention that Aaron Donald or J.J. Watt might get, Heyward’s value and importance to this defense cannot be defined justifiably. Simply put, Heyward’s physical and mental ability combined with his leadership makes him irreplaceable.