The number of players who have been here longer than Cameron Heyward at this point is down to just two: Ben Roethlisberger and Maurkice Pouncey. That’s it. Joe Haden and Tyson Alualu have been around the NFL slightly longer, but not with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Not since 2011.
Of course, he has been around for this long because he has earned it, but with that duration of time has also become a level not just of trust but also of responsibility. And now in his third season working with Karl Dunbar as his defensive line coach, they are building a rapport and taking it to another level.
“I think he has always been my Paul Revere”, Dunbar said of the veteran. “He has always been my guy to get my message out. I think having these guys being in the room for three years with them, they understand what we want to do and how we want to do it”.
“I think they are going to come together, and they are going to do things to help us get ready for the game on Sunday”, he added. “I think that’s the thing Cam having that C on his shirt, he does a really good job on the field, off the field and in the classroom with the players. I have confidence that we are going to do the things that need to get done for the game on Sunday”.
That C, of course, stands for Captain, and Heyward has been one for several years now, though this year T.J. Watt was also named a captain of the defense (Roethlisberger and Pouncey are captains of the offense, while Jordan Dangerfield is the special teams captain).
It comes down to the head coach to instruct his team and motivate them, but if you don’t have that trickling down to your position coaches and your veteran players, you’re really not getting everything out of your team that you could or should be getting.
You need to have guys like Heyward who can be player-teachers and convey your message. You need to have your Paul Revere. And that’s especially true of a season like this, where there is a lot of young depth with Isaiah Buggs and Henry Mondeaux and Carlos Davis, and in a season in which there wasn’t a conventional build-up process.
There’s a reason the front office prioritized getting him locked in with a nice extension prior to the start of this season, to make sure that they have him around for years to come, because he is vital to this team not just on the field, but off it as well. You don’t hear that kind of talk from coaches about just any player.