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 the fifth consecutive season in which they failed to win a postseason game—a new record for the franchise since the merger. Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we.
The Steelers did arguably perform at or above expectations this year by going 9-7-1 and making the postseason at all, a reflection of just how much talent they lost during the offseason, from the majority of the offensive line to Mike Hilton, Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Vince Williams—not to mention Stephon Tuitt, essentially.
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 2021 season.
Player: Cameron Heyward
Experience: 11 Years
How often can you say of a defensive lineman, especially a non-nose tackle, that he may have just played his best season at 32 years old? How often can you say that about one who is already a perennial Pro Bowler and All-Pro?
I ask because Cameron Heyward of the Pittsburgh Steelers may have turned in the best year of his entire career in 2021, in his 11th season at the age of 32. And he did it without the aide of his two fellow starting defensive linemen, Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu (at least, for 16.5 games in the case of the latter).
Heyward recorded a career-high 89 tackles, with 15 tackles for loss. He posted his second season of double-digit sacks with 10, becoming just the second defensive lineman in team history to do so. He also had 17 quarterback hits, an interception, and a career-high nine batted passes.
Did I mention that he is 32 years old, and has been doing this for over a decade? Did I mention that he did it while playing with backups? While continuing to keep his tackling well cleaner than average, while retaining his famously persistent hustle and chasedown efforts, and while, frankly, playing better on tape than even the numbers suggest?
Heyward is one year into a four-year contract extension. He is still on the books through the 2024 season. Based on the way that he just played, can we really put it past him continuing to earn his bucks at the age of 35 three years from now? I’m certainly not going to.