90 In 30: Steelers 2022 Training Camp Preview Series: Cameron Heyward, Connor Heyward, Alex Highsmith

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 offseason practices concluded last week, and next up for the team is their annual training camp, which should get underway in the latter part of July at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe. Ahead of Steelers’ training camp getting underway, we will preview the team’s offseason roster three players at a time for you as part of a 30-post series. This Steelers’ roster preview, which includes outlooks for each player, will be done alphabetically by last name to make it easy to follow along with.

The next three players we will preview ahead of Steelers training camp are Cameron Heyward, Connor Heyward, and Alex Highsmith.

DT Cameron Heyward: The 2022 season was another fine one for the Steelers defensive captain as he recorded a career-high 89 total tackles to go along with 10 sacks, the second-most in a single season for him. He was also credited with 17 quarterback hits, a whopping nine passes defensed, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and even an interception during the 2021 regular season. Those stats came in 17 regular season games and in 955 total defensive snaps, the second-most he’s played in a single season. He even had to play some nose tackle in 2021 due to the injuries the team had on the defensive line. It wasn’t surprising that Heyward was voted First-Team All-Pro again and selected to the Pro Bowl again for his efforts in 2021 as well.

Outlook: The Steelers have rebuilt their defense this offseason and hopefully that will result in Heyward playing a few less snaps in 2022. With him now 33, it might be wise to get him a few more snaps on the sideline throughout the season. That wasn’t possible last season due to injuries. Hopefully he’s not asked to play any at nose tackle moving forward as well. Heyward is still regarded as one of the top defensive tackles/3-4 defensive ends in the NFL and that should show once again in 2022. If the Steelers defensive front can return to form in 2022, Heyward should be afforded several nice matchups throughout the season. Another 10 sacks could indeed be in the cards for Heyward in 2022 and even more plays such as tipped passes and forced fumbles. He will obviously continue being the leader of the Steelers defense in 2022, a job he’s grown into well. In closing, Heyward could wind up a First-Team All-Pro once again in 2022 if he stays healthy.

TE/FB Connor Heyward: The Steelers spent one of their 2022 sixth-round draft picks on Connor Heyward, who played his college football at Michigan State, and that selection wasn’t overly surprising due to him being the younger brother of Cameron Heyward. At Michigan State, the younger Heyward rushed 211 times for 825 yards and five touchdowns over a five-season span. He also caught 96 passes for 711 yards and six touchdowns during his college career. 35 of those receptions for 326 yards and two touchdowns came during his final 2021 season. Connor Heyward also played some on special teams at Michigan State on his way to registering a handful of tackles. He was asked to play more h-back, fullback and tight end during his final college season as well to help the team.

Outlook: With Connor Heyward now in Pittsburgh, he is officially listed as a tight end. At his size, however, it’s hard to imagine him being asked to play much as an end-of-the-line tight end with the Steelers. Because if that, h-back and fullback roles would seem to be more plausible when it comes to Heyward’s future. Detached from the line as a tight end could be in the cards as well. The Steelers still have veteran fullback Derek Watt under contract for one more season so if Heyward is to stick on the 53-man roster come Week 1, he’ll need to be an asset on special teams. He could technically stick as an all-tools type of player as he also has experience carrying the football. In short, he could be a third tight end, backup fullback and emergency running back in addition to being a core special teamer. Should Heyward not stick as 52nd or 53rd player later this summer, it’s easy to imagine him landing on the practice squad come Week 1.

OLB Alex Highsmith: As a whole, the 2021 season was a good one for Highsmith, the team’s former third-round draft pick out of Charlotte. In total, he recorded 74 total tackles, 15 for a loss and six sacks. He also had 15 quarterback hits during the regular season and forced a fumble. He logged 851 defensive snaps in 16 games during the regular season with 60 more on special teams. He missed one game due to a groin injury, however. It should be noted that Highsmith did have another sack in the team’s playoff loss to go along with three total tackles. Highsmith showed some improvement in his play against the run in his second season and more power as a pass rusher as well.

Outlook: With a nice jump in his second season now under his belt, the expectation for Highsmith in 2022 will be for him to make yet another jump and thus become a complete NFL outside linebacker. The steelers have rebuilt their defensive front this offseason and that includes the addition of defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi and the return of a healthy defensive tackle in the form of Tyson Alualu. Assuming the Steelers defensive line can stay healthy in 2022, Highsmith should benefit via a lot of tasty one-on-one matchups with tackles throughout the season. A positive jump for Highsmith in 2022 should result in him having double-digit sacks, or very close to it. More than anything, more quarterback pressures in addition to more run stops should be in the cards for him. A very good season for Highsmith in 2022 could result in the Steelers attempting to sign him to a nice contract extension next summer. Overall, it’s hard to not get excited about what kind of season might be on tap for Highsmith in 2022.

Previous Posts In Series:

90 In 30: Steelers 2022 Training Camp Preview Series: Montravius Adams, Marcus Allen, Tyson Alualu
90 In 30: Steelers 2022 Training Camp Preview Series: Daniel Archibong, Calvin Austin III, Genard Avery
90 In 30: Steelers 2022 Training Camp Preview Series: Chris Boswell, Miles Boykin, Devin Bush
90 In 30: Steelers 2022 Training Camp Preview Series: Chase Claypool, Mason Cole, James Daniels
90 In 30: Steelers 2022 Training Camp Preview Series: Carlos Davis, Khalil Davis, Jake Dixon
90 In 30: Steelers 2022 Training Camp Preview Series: Kevin Dotson, Mataeo Durant, Terrell Edmunds
90 In 30: Steelers 2022 Training Camp Preview Series: Trey Edmunds, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pat Freiermuth
90 In 30: Steelers 2022 Training Camp Preview Series: Zach Gentry, Nate Gilliam, Chaz Green
90 In 30: Steelers 2022 Training Camp Preview Series: Ulysees Gilbert III, Kendrick Green, Joe Haeg
90 In 30: Steelers 2022 Training Camp Preview Series: Najee Harris, Pressley Harvin III, J.C. Hassenauer

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