Getting drafted to play in the NFL is an honor that only a fraction of the nation’s football players get to experience. It’s a moment you’re not likely to forget, and some moments are more special than others. Connor Heyward being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, with their and the city’s connections to his family, would certainly qualify as one of the more special and unique draft moments.
But that’s all it is—a moment, a memory. That moment has passed, a fact of which the young Heyward is amply aware. Perhaps especially as he gears up to take the practice field with his older brother, Cameron, for the first time in their lives.
“It feels like years ago, honestly. With all the installs and everything else, it feels like I just forgot about that”, he recently told Missi Matthews for the team’s website about that moment that he was drafted, which he has already been asked to recount half a dozen times.
“I’m just here to work. That was a really great moment, something that I’ll never forget, but it’s time to get to work”, he continued, “and I’m forever thankful for the Steelers organization trusting me and my abilities, and hopefully I can show that on display here”.
A Michigan State alumnus who converted from running back to H-back during his senior season, Heyward is currently getting his instruction from the tight end group under coach Alfredo Roberts. He talked about learning from the other tight ends, such as Pat Freiermuth and Zach Gentry, though he understands that ultimately he will be asked to play a role that differs from the others.
That’s kind of inevitable when you’re 6’0” and 230 pounds in the NFL. You’re not going to be a true, full-time tight end with that profile, especially not in an organization like the Steelers, where they clearly continue to value highly the role of the blocker from the position.
Heyward isn’t going to be asked to do a ton of in-line blocking whenever he is on the field, assuming that he does manage to get on the field on offense. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if he spends more time as a receiving option than as a blocker, but when he is blocking, it will be more likely to be on the move and out in space, with some work in the backfield.
That all has to be coordinated, of course, because they also have a fullback in Derek Watt whom they already use very sparingly in an offensive capacity—to the chagrin of a vocal minority of fans, at least among those who question why he’s on the roster on a contract earning him an average of more than $3 million per year.
Yes, the draft was a great moment for the Heyward family, but for Connor, the reality of being an NFL draft pick has already solidified itself. At the moment, he’s just trying to pick up the offense and take instructions as a tight end, gradually learning multiple positions and special-teams responsibilities while striving, ultimately, to actually make the team.