As I wrote of myself earlier today, I think it’s entirely possible that some of us are taking Cameron Heyward for granted. He has been everything that the Pittsburgh Steelers could have possibly thought he would be when they drafted him 31st overall back in 2011, and nine season into his career, he is still playing, perhaps, as well as he ever has.
In 2019, a year during which he was voted into the Pro Bowl outright and received first-team All-Pro honors—the first season in which both happened together—the big man put up some truly admirable numbers, including by far a career-high in tackles with 83, among them 11 for a loss. He finished with nine tackles, a forced fumble, a recovery, and six batted passes. At least one of them off the top of my head, but possibly more, directly led to an interception.
On the day in which it was revealed that Heyward, joining T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick, were named first-team All-Pros for the Steelers’ defense, his teammates spoke up for him. One article for the team’s website quoted Javon Hargrave’s praise for the man from whom he learned so much.
“He is our captain. He is the best at what he does”, he said of Heyward. “He is dominating the league. He has been dominating for the last five years, ever since I got here. He is just playing at a high level. He just shows you how to practice, what he does. He beats his players easily in a game. I don’t know how he does it. He is just that good. He dominates what he does”.
Hargrave’s rookie season, actually was the worst for Heyward. That is the only season in his career in which he ever missed a game due to injury, and, in fact, he suffered multiple unique injuries, but a torn muscle ultimately put him on the Reserve/Injured List. He played just seven games that year, some through injury, but he still had three sacks and four passes defensed.
In the three years since, he has put up the best numbers of his career. During that span, he has put up 179 tackles, 29 sacks, four forced fumbles, three recoveries, and 12 passes defensed. He also has 62 quarterback hits and 37 tackles for loss.
He has been named a first-team All-Pro in two of the past three seasons and named to the Pro Bowl in each year, though he was named as an alternated in 2017. Unfortunately, the team hasn’t won a single playoff game during that span. In fact, their best year in terms of postseason production was the one he wasn’t here for, in 2016. That’s got to change in 2020.