In case you were wondering, yes, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Connor Heyward really is working with the tight ends right now, something that he talked about a bit in an interview with Missi Matthews on the team’s website recently. Notably, there was also a recent photo of the entire running back room with coach Eddie Faulkner, which included not only the two college free agent rookie backs, but also fullback Derek Watt—and not Heyward.
After the Steelers drafted him, it was tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts who came out to speak to the media about him, and he said at that time that they were going to start him there, even if they ultimately expect him to do a variety of things—but the core of his instruction will be in that tight end room.
“I’m still getting acclimated, honestly, learning from all the vets in the room. Pat [Freiermuth], [Zach] Gentry, [Kevin] Rader, Jace [Sternburger], they’ve all taught me a lot”, he said, referring to the rest of the tight ends on the team. “Coach Fredo’s been really good, hands-on, teaching us a lot of different things, really making sure he’s on me, because I’m the youngest in the room, and I’ve got to learn everything, and multiple positions. I’ve honestly just been trying to soak everything in”.
Of course it’s never a bad idea to give a young player grounding in one spot before you start moving him around. That’s typically what the Steelers—and every team, really—do with these players they via as serving multiple roles. Tre Norwood last year, for example, spent most of his rookie offseason working only at safety, yet ended up starting in the slot in the opener.
“I know he’s done some things, positional flexibility things, and when I saw him as a tight end, I had an opportunity to look at him as a tight end guy and he offered some value”, Roberts said last month after they drafted Heyward. “Right now we get a chance to focus on him being a tight end and fitting in with the rest of the guys”.
So, basically, they’re doing what they said they were going to do, which is no surprise, but in time, he’ll surely shuffle between the tight end and running back rooms, which they’ve done before with other fullback-type bodies that they have had, like Will Johnson. As for the rest of the rookie class, they’re all bonding and getting to know one another.
“The rookie class, I think all of us have gotten really close, and I think we’re still getting close to one another, still finding out what everybody likes to do, what their interests are, their hobbies”, Heyward said, “but I think we’re meshing really well, and I’m looking forward to continuing that”.
The Steelers gave him plenty to work with in terms of fellow offensive rookies, including two quarterbacks and two wide receivers, as well as the undrafted running backs mentioned earlier. But ultimately I think he’ll fit in well with that tight end group, both personally and professionally, even if his role is just slightly different.