Five straight trips to the Pro Bowl and four All-Pro accolades in the last five seasons has Pittsburgh Steelers’ star defensive lineman and defensive captain Cam Heyward in rarified air along the defensive line in NFL circles.
On a Hall of Fame trajectory, there’s no denying just how great Heyward is at this point in his career at 33 years old.
While he’s rarely in the running for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award, Heyward is one of the most impactful interior defensive linemen in the NFL on a week-in, week-out basis, right up there with future Hall of Famer and Los Angeles Rams’ star defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
Heyward slots in ahead of Kansas City’s Chris Jones at No. 3, Indianapolis’s DeForest Buckner at No. 4, and Atlanta’s Grady Jarrett at No. 5 in the Tier 2 “elite” category, while Donald stands alone in the Tier 1 “one of one” category.
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) January 11, 2022
“Heyward is set to enter his 12th NFL season at 33 years old, but he has only gotten better with age,” PFF’s Ben Linsey writes. “The three highest-graded seasons of his career all came in the past three years. Heyward does a great job of winning with strength both against the run and the pass, employing one of the league’s better bull rushes. He should once again anchor the strength of Pittsburgh’s roster — a top-tier defensive front.”
Somehow, Heyward is getting better and better with age. He’s the football version of Benjamin Button, if there was such a version. At 33 years old, and playing the position he does, he shouldn’t be improving each and every year, but that’s exactly what’s happening.
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) November 9, 2020
He’s a dominant run defender overall due to his strength at the point of attack and his ability to anchor against double teams, allowing him to eat up a ton of space when not penetrating and racking up tackles for loss. As a pass rusher, Heyward has improved leaps and bounds in recent seasons, thanks to his individual work with renowned pass rush coach Chuck Smith in the offseason.
Though there are questions about when he will slow down with age and overall wear and tear, Heyward remains the elite of the elite in the NFL, which is a testament to the hard work he’s put in over the years, willing himself to greatness.