For a long time, Cameron Heyward jokingly complained about a preferential bias that Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin had for Lawrence Timmons, calling him his ‘first son’, because he was the first draft pick Tomlin had ever made. Timmons would get all the close calls in practices, even in the sprints. Even if he false started.
Everybody from the 2007-2009 classes are gone now, though. Maurkice Pouncey and Heyward are the longest-tenured Tomlin draft picks still on the team in 2020, the former the first-round pick in 2010, the latter the first-rounder for 2011.
Heyward has been a defensive captain for years now and is clearly respected greatly not just by Tomlin, but by all his teammates, the organization, the fan base, and the community as a whole. He is even this year’s recipient of the Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year Award, by no coincidence.
The respect is mutual between himself and Tomlin, however, who also will be honored this year. The three-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman was doing the media rounds yesterday in participation of Super Bowl media week, and he was asked about Tomlin appearing on The Zach Gelb Show.
“I’ll do whatever I can to keep him in Pittsburgh, because he’s helped my career, he’s a Steeler at heart, and he challenges us”, he said of his head coach. “He’s consistent in his approach. You can see that even when we started 0-3. I felt like he kept being consistent and kept trying to motivate the group the same way. He has that personal relationship with each guy on the team where he’s able to challenge guys. I’m really appreciative of him”.
The Steelers were floundering once Ben Roethlisberger went down injured in the second game of the season. By then, they were already in an 0-2 hole, and then lost to the eventual NFC champions in the San Francisco 49ers in Week Three.
Ending up 1-4 after losing in overtime two weeks later to the Baltimore Ravens, who finished with the best record in football, Tomlin’s team then went on a 7-1 run to climb to 8-5. In most other divisions, they still would have been in the thick of things, but even at that point, they retained control of their playoff fate.
People began mentioning his name for coach of the year consideration at that point, but that talk quickly died down as the Steelers dropped their final three games with no offense to speak of from a world-champion duck caller.
Last offseason, the Steelers signed Tomlin to a one-year extension through 2020 with a second-year option. There has been a lack of clarity about the nature of that option, but in August, Art Rooney II said the option was on the part of both sides. One would imagine the option year will be picked up soon enough.