Now that training camp is underway, and the roster for the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: DE Cameron Heyward
Stock Value: Up
In a way, it’s almost unfortunate that the defense as a whole has played as well as they have so far this season. It has distracted from the quality of play—the consistent quality of play, over a period of years—that we have been getting from nine-year veteran defensive lineman Cameron Heyward.
With all the new toys running around making noise, whether it’s Devin Bush or Minkah Fitzpatrick or T.J. Watt or Steven Nelson—Heyward’s dominance has a tendency to get taken for granted, but he is legitimately having arguably the best season of his career, regardless of what the total sack production might say a the end of the season.
His last performance against the Cincinnati Bengals was another one to write home about, and it did happen to include another sack, bringing his total to six and a half for the season. If he notches another on Sunday, it will give him the third-highest total of his career, trailing his totals from each of the past two seasons, in both years having made the Pro Bowl to boot.
But he’s not just picking up sacks. He’s getting regular pressure against the quarterback—he must have recorded a hit on Ryan Finley at least three or four times on Sunday, in addition to other hurries—as well as stops in the run game.
His 55 tackles on the season has him well on-pace to post a new career-high, which currently stands at 59. He only needs to average one tackle per game the rest of the way to break that personal-best mark. He’s in good shape in tackles for loss and quarterback hits as well.
Can keep in mind he’s been doing a lot of this without Stephon Tuitt, who was lost for the season early on in Week Six. Defenders typically work in pairs and feed off of one another, but he’s had to be the force along the defensive line. It would be gross incompetence if he doesn’t make the Pro Bowl once again this season.