The hourly NFL hot take machine stops for no team and that includes the Pittsburgh Steelers while on their bye week. The latest absurdness related to the Steelers comes from none other than longtime NFL insider John Clayton, and specifically his thoughts on defensive tackle Cameron Heyward potentially being a Hall of Famer after his playing days are over with.
On the heels of NBC Sunday Night Football, color commentator Cris Collinsworth said during the Steelers Week 6 game against the Seattle Seahawks that he thinks Heyward could potentially be a future Hall of Famer, Clayton said during his Wednesday interview on 93.7 The Fan that he would essentially be shocked if that’s ultimately the case.
After first saying that it is his own opinion that Heyward won’t one day be enshrined in Canton, OH as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Clayton went on to add that he doesn’t believe that the Steelers former first-round draft pick is even the best defensive lineman currently under contract with the team. He thinks that designation belongs to defensive end Stephon Tuitt.
“Say what you want, Stephon Tuitt is better when he’s healthy, because what, he had 11 sacks last year,” said Clayton. “You have to be so unique to be in the Hall of Fame.”
While I think it’s fine overall for Clayton to think that Heyward might not one day be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame based on what he’s accomplished so far during his NFL career, which includes him already having registered 60 total sacks 487 total tackles, 139 quarterback hits, 38 passes defensed, seven forced fumbles and one interception in 155 regular season games played in, it’s quite ridiculous to say that Ohio State product is not currently the best defensive lineman on the team, and that’s meant with no disrespect to Tuitt.
Tuitt indeed did have a fantastic 2020 season and the Steelers certainly could stand to get him off their Reserve/Injured list as soon as possible. That noted, Tuitt’s stellar 2020 season was clearly a byproduct of how opposing offensive lines attempted to limit Heyward. Heyward draws the most double-teams year in and year out and that usually results in Tuitt being in a lot of situations where he only needs to beat one opposing offensive lineman. I’m willing to bet that even Tuitt would admit to as much.
Currently, Heyward’s 60 career sacks has him ranked just outside of the top 125 when it comes to the official all-time sack leader’s list and because of that, it makes for a fairly good argument that he wouldn’t be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame if he never played another game. Heyward, however, isn’t done playing in the NFL quite yet and if he were to register 15 more sacks before he retires, he would then be ranked within the top 100 players on the all-time list.
How many more years will Heyward ultimately play? Nobody knows for sure, but he is currently under contract with the Steelers through the 2024 season just the same. Assuming Heyward plays out his current contract, it’s hard to imagine him not getting at least 20 more sacks if he stays healthy. 22 more sacks for Heyward would put him inside the current top 75 official all-time list, by the way.
Personally, Clayton would have been better served to not move forward from his opinion that Heyward won’t ultimately get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He could have even then used Heyward’s career sack total to date as a reason why he believes that and left it at just that. Sure, there surely would have still been some pushback to such a response, and mainly based on what I outlined above. Clayton didn’t do that, however and him expressing the notion that Heyward is not even the best defensive lineman currently on the team results in him losing even more of the overall credibility that he had built up leading into Wednesday’s interview.
By the way, below was Heyward’s Wednesday social media response to Clayton’s comments. As you can clearly see, Heyward’s keeping the Wednesday receipt from this hot take. Heyward, by the way, is currently the highest-graded defensive player in the NFL through Week 6 at 92.3, according to Pro Football Focus. He’s even graded higher than Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who is universally regarded as the NFL’s best interior defender the last several years.