The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex earlier than they had anticipated, having been ousted from the postseason in the opening round, which unfortunately marks a slight improvement from the past two seasons, during which they did not even qualify for the playoffs altogether. They have now done four seasons without securing a victory beyond regular season play.
Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we.
They did manage to go 12-4 during the regular season, and secured their first AFC North title since 2017, posting a new franchise record by opening the season with 11 consecutive wins, but of course it all fell apart after that. Their only victory after that required a 17-point comeback.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between head coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2020 season.
Player: Cameron Heyward
Experience: 10 Years
A decade. That is how long Cameron Heyward has been playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Somehow for me it still doesn’t feel that long. Granted, it took him two-plus years to crack the starting lineup, and the missed the majority of one season due to injury, so perhaps that plays a factor.
But he was also ‘the young guy’ behind Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel and Casey Hampton and Chris Hoke and Travis Kirschke and the like when he came in, and I really kind of ‘grew up’ in football terms watching those guys play. He was the pup. He was the student. He’s since become the teacher.
And one can certainly make the case that he has surpassed his teachers. While the Steelers instruct their defensive linemen differently now than they do then, a bit, giving them far more freedom to rush the passer (which has led to excellent results), we can still make those comparisons.
Statistically, Heyward’s 2020 season was not exactly his most remarkable. He finished with only four sacks after averaging nearly 10 per season over the course of the previous three years. But he also had 19 quarterback hits and seven tackles for loss, as well as three batted passes, and even an interception.
For the fourth year in a row, Heyward also made the Pro Bowl, and he made the All-Pro team again, albeit this time as a member of the second team. While some of that is prestige, I would also like to think that’s an indication that the voters watch the film and see what he does beyond the numbers.
Last year, the Steelers signed him to a new contract extension, and he remains locked in for the next several years. How many of those will he play? I honestly wouldn’t rule out him finishing the contract, even though it puts him into his mid-30s. Defensive linemen who take care of their bodies can have that kind of career.