Steelers News

Heyward: Lamar Jackson’s A Superstar; Joe Burrow Needs To Play More First

The Pittsburgh Steelers have long been the driver behind the perceptions of the AFC North as a division. By and large, the quality most associated with the North is hard-nosed defensive football, and that reputation was principally founded on Dick LeBeau’s defenses of the 2000s, albeit not without contributions from the Baltimore Ravens.

Right now, while there is still defensive talent, the North has also become a division of quarterbacks, with Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow very easily two of the most respected young passers in the NFL. Deshaun Watson is, of course, reviled as a human being right now, but there’s a reason the Cleveland Browns sold out to get him. And the Steelers, too, potentially have a future with Kenny Pickett.

But does the division have transcendent talent at the position, the kind of personas who rise above the game and expand into the broader public consciousness? Do they have ‘superstars’? That’s a subject Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward weighed on the latest episode of his podcast, Not Just Football, posed that question for both Jackson and Burrow.

“Yes, he’s a superstar”, he said of the Ravens’ Jackson. “He is the guy that’s already won an MVP at such a young age. And why are we hating? Like, the dude is about to get paid. They better pay him. If they don’t pay him, they’re stupid. I want them to mess up the Baltimore Ravens’ salary cap. Come on, Baltimore. Do something right”.

Of course, Jackson is currently negotiating a contract extension with the Ravens. The team reportedly offered him more than the Arizona Cardinals paid Kyler Murray, but evidently not enough, or in a satisfying enough structure, to get him to put pen to paper yet. The quarterback has said that negotiating will end when the regular season begins if a deal is not done.

As for Burrow, who took the Cincinnati Bengals to the Super Bowl last season and was the unanimous number one player in the 2020 NFL Draft, Heyward doesn’t think he’s quite there yet, if only because it requires a larger body of work.

“No, he is not a superstar. I just think, Joe B’s only had one season truly healthy”, he said. “He was successful in that, but I’m pretty sure the Bengals want to see him more. Obviously, he’s a great talent in our league, and if he had won the Super Bowl right then and there, they would’ve already crowned him the superstar. But I think everyone’s looking for the guy to play just a little bit more”.

Burrow did not actually make the Pro Bowl last year despite completing over 70 percent of his passes, throwing for 4,611 yards and 34 touchdowns, although he likely would have been named an alternate if he were not playing in the Super Bowl. But many general managers in the league right now would pick him as the player they want to start building a franchise with.

Will Pickett reach superstar status one day—not just in Pittsburgh, but as a league-wide presence? Was Ben Roethlisberger ever even regarded in that fashion? Then again, what even is a superstar?

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