To say that ‘Football Is Family’™ is beyond a cliché at this point, which tends to happen when corporate entities go about commodifying sentiment. And this is especially the case when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who currently employ four pairs of siblings on their 90-man roster. I won’t even get into the family connections within ownership and the front office.
But it has a deeper meaning for Charlotte Heyward, the widow of Craig ‘Ironhead’ Heyward, and the mother of Cameron and Connor, the latter of whom was drafted by the Steelers last month, joining his older brother, who has been a mainstay not just with Pittsburgh but the league as a whole since 2011.
Charlotte was born and raised in Pittsburgh. She’s had the blessing of watching her oldest play for her hometown team for going on a dozen years now. But now she’ll get to watch two of her sons on that same field—the first time in their entire lives they have ever been on a team together.
“I never thought something like this would happen”, she told Teresa Varley. “We never raised our kids to play thinking that they would play professional sports. I never thought they’d play professionally, let alone play together and in the city where I was born. I’ve been a Steeler fan since I was a little girl. This is a movie, it isn’t real. It’s surreal. Until I see them on the field together at Heinz Field, I don’t think it will hit me”.
That wasn’t the only special moment for the family. This past week, Cameron received an honorary doctorate from Carlow University right in Pittsburgh. That just so happens to be the alma mater of Charlotte herself—and the woman who raised her, her mother, who was also in attendance, and on stage, to commemorate her own graduation.
I’m not a big sentiment guy when it comes to professional sports, but the fact of the matter is that some human beings are just easy to root for. The Heyward family is one collective of human beings that seems to exude goodness, so I find myself personally gratified to see them live this moment.
And the good news is that they should hopefully have at least a couple of years together. Cameron may have just turned 33 years old, but he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, nor wearing down, which is even more important. A lot of linemen who approach his age begin to be betrayed by their body.
Heyward, however, has been a model of durability throughout his entire career. He played all 17 games just last season, in fact, logging 955 snaps.
The real question is, however, will the Steelers get them on the field together? Cameron plays on the field goal units, both kicking and blocking, so if Danny Smith can squeeze Connor into one of those roles—perhaps as a wing on the kicking unit—that would be special.
Otherwise, we might have to get Cameron in the backfield. But he does seem to think he has hands now after snatching a pair of interceptions over the past two seasons.