Now that the 2020 regular season has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the season as it plays out. Who is making plays? Who is missing them? Who is losing snaps? Who is struggling to stay on the field?
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. 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 season as we move forward.
Player: DT Cameron Heyward
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: Despite being forced to leave the Steelers’ previous game late with a knee injury, Cameron Heyward missed no time in practice and played one of his best games of the season against the Dallas Cowboys, coming up big late in particular.
While Heyward’s day might not pop out at you on the stat sheet, his play did pop out on tape. He finished the game with three tackles, half a sack, and three total hits on the quarterback, but you know that his influence on the game, and on novice quarterback Garrett Gilbert, went beyond that.
Most impressive about his performance is the fact that he did not appear to show any ill effects of the knee injury that he suffered late in the game against the Baltimore Ravens. While the fact that he didn’t miss any practice time is a strong indicator that it proved not to be serious, it’s still commendable, especially considering the marathon they have been on of late.
One of perhaps his more forgotten plays came at the end of the first quarter, when he and Vince Williams teamed up to meet Ezekiel Elliott, stopping him for no gain on 3rd and 1, forcing them to punt and forcing a three and out after the Cowboys scored on their first drive. He also stopped Tony Pollard for a loss of two. Later on the drive, he stuffed Elliott for no gain on 2nd and 9 from the Steelers’ 30. After they got eight on the next play, they settled for a field goal.
Heyward also put the pressure on Gilbert on 3rd and goal from the five-yard line on the play on which he floated up a ball that Minkah Fitzpatrick would intercept, which preserved a four-point deficit.
Ironically, one of his most significant plays was a false start on the field goal unit that negated a missed 54-yard field goal by Chris Boswell. He got another shot of it due to that dead ball foul and ended up making a 59-yard field goal instead.
Oh, and then he put the cherry on top with a sack of Gilbert on what should have been the final defensive play of the game, on 4th and 8, driving back the lineman with a wicked one-arm bull rush. The offense couldn’t close it, so the defense had to one more time.