Now that the regular season has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. 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. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: DT Cameron Heyward
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: Beginning his 11th season, Cameron Heyward continues to dominate for the Steelers along their defensive line, recording a dozen pressures as an interior rusher against the Bills on Sunday.
There was a lot of joking around this offseason about 11th-year Pittsburgh Steelers veteran defensive tackle Cameron Heyward and his being the old man of the defense. He’s gotten it from teammates. He’s gotten it from coaches. He’s even gotten it from fans—he said that someone congratulated him on his retirement at one point when he was out and about in town.
The three-time All-Pro didn’t look like someone who was nearing retirement on Sunday afternoon in the Steelers’ regular-season debut against the Buffalo Bills, though. Sure, his veteran experience showed, but he still looked to be in his physical prime, not giving way to anybody else.
While just one metric, Heyward was the highest-graded performer in football for week one by Pro Football Focus, and the tape supports such distinction. He got into the backfield with remarkable regularity, putting guards on their backsides staring up at the afternoon sky.
When you combine incredible power and strength with more than a decade’s worth of accumulated knowledge and wisdom, you’re going to be hard to beat. Add excellent edge rusher around you and an experienced group who works well together, and you’re set for a dominant performance.
And we’ve seen this from Heyward long enough to know it’s not going to be a one-off. If he played like this in week one, he’s not just going to suddenly fall off the cliff. We’re in for another excellent season from the defensive captain. Father Time can wait his turn.
In fact, with the depth of their defensive line this year, the Steelers can even do him a favor by giving him more snaps off with the aim of keeping him fresher later in the season. This is something he talks about every year, but this time they finally have the depth to accomplish that, especially once they can get Stephon Tuitt on the field.