Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the season and into the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: DL Cameron Heyward
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The perennial Pro Bowler is preparing for his 13th season in the NFL (feel old yet?) and doing so for the first time in a long time knowing that Stephon Tuitt won’t be there. But while Tuitt retired, the Steelers opted not to idle and brought in Larry Ogunjobi to replace him, who should provide more quality depth for the line as a whole and creating more opportunities for stalwarts like Heyward to get more rest, and be more fresh for the late stages of the season.
We have known for approaching two months now that Stephon Tuitt was not going to be back, officially announcing his retirement. Up to that point, the Steelers were proceeding with the hope that he would play, even if they understood he may not, in which case, they were nominally prepared to move forward with Chris Wormley.
But with the team instead being aggressive and signing Larry Ogunjobi, they not only add a more impactful starter who is a better player, they also bolster the overall depth of the defensive line significantly.
Bringing in Ogunjobi has multiple benefits for somebody like Cameron Heyward, then. It not only gives him another talented lineman to play alongside, with the ability to benefit from the attention he may be able to generate with his pass rush, it also has a trickle-down effect on the depth and breadth of the room as a whole.
That means they will be able to be less reliant upon Heyward as a workhorse, having played over 1,000 snaps last year. Without such great concerns about a drop in play when he is not in the lineup, he should be afforded more opportunities to rest during games, which one would expect to have season-long benefits.
Heyward has talked about the importance of bolstering the defensive line depth to provide more resting opportunities for the starters for what is now probably the majority of his career, and the Steelers may finally actually have enough depth to accomplish that this year. Even without Tuitt, thanks to their active decision to go out and get Ogunjobi.