Connor Heyward is literally Pittsburgh Steelers family. He is the younger brother of one of the great players not just of this era but of any era in team history, that being the perennial Pro Bowl defensive lineman Cameron Heyward. Because of his relationship with big brother, he has spent plenty of time inside of the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex well before being drafted by the team.
But Cam isn’t the only brother he has in that locker room anymore—at least if you expand the definition of a brother beyond blood relations. The rookie sixth-round pick is feeling like he’s a part of the family already, having been welcomed by the group.
“I definitely feel more comfortable. This is home now”, he told reporters earlier this offseason, as quoted by Teresa Varley in a recent article for the team’s website. “All the guys have accepted me. I felt like they accepted me even back when I was coming to visit Cam. But now, I’m here for work and they know that and I’m a teammate and I’m a brother to them and they’re brothers to me”.
That would probably go especially for those who are in his position group, which at least for the spring was primarily the tight ends. Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Kevin Rader, and Jace Sternberger make up that particular fraternity, though he could very well be taking a roster spot away from one of them later this year. Still, that’s not how most athletes approach relationships.
“The tight ends have been real helpful”, he said of Alfredo Roberts’ position room, where he has spent most of his time. “Even more off the field than on the field, helping me get comfortable here and letting me be myself. They embrace me and I feel like I am one of them now”.
Of course, Connor is a little bit different, and the measurables tell that story. All of the other players in that room weigh at least 250 pounds and stand at 6’4” or taller, with Rader being the shortest and lightest of that group. Heyward is 6’0” and 230 pounds.
He is not a traditional tight end. He was not drafted to be a traditional tight end. He is not even listed squarely as a tight end on the depth chart anymore, now with a ‘slash’ adjoining that position to that of the fullback, which is essentially the job description of what we call an ‘H-back’.
Now, that’s all theoretical talk. Where the rookie really has to focus is attentions is on special teams, a fact of which he is well aware. Even assuming that he does manage to make the team, and even sticks around for a few years, there’s no guarantee that he’s actually going to see many offensive snaps. But he’s the kind of player who will do anything for his team that is asked of him. Anything for his brothers, by blood or by bond.