2022 South Side Questions: Why Did Heyward Have A Hard Time Vs Patriots’ Rookie Guard?

The Steelers are at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, informally known as the South Side facility, now into the regular season. It’s where they otherwise train all year round, and the facility that Burt Lauten insists everybody refers to by its full name.

There are still unsettled questions that need answering, even deep into the regular season. They entered the process with questions in the starting lineup, in scheme, and elsewhere, but new problems always arise that need to be resolved.

Even questions about who’s starting and when may not have satisfactory answers in their finality, as midseason changes are certainly quite possible, for some positions more than others. We’re also feeling out how the new coordinator posts—or posts in new contexts—end up playing out.

There’s never any shortage of questions when it comes to football, and we’ll be discussing them here on a daily basis for the community to “talk amongst yourselves”, as Linda Richman might say on Coffee Talk.

Question: Why did Cameron Heyward have such a hard time against Patriots rookie guard Cole Strange?

Cameron Heyward might have been salivating when he first got the schedule and saw the starting lineups of his first two opponents. Both were starting rookies at left guard. A guy like Heyward feasts on rookies no matter who they are.

Well, he did that in week one against the Bengals’ Cordell Volson. But it wouldn’t be too audacious to say that Patriots rookie Cole Strange got the better of the perennial All-Pro. It’s rare that I could even consider Heyward as an inclusion in the stock watch series for a ‘down’ evaluation, but this is probably the closest it’s come in a game in which he was healthy in a while.

Maybe you can argue there was a trickle-down effect with the loss of T.J. Watt, and, surely, that’s true to some degree. But he and Strange had plenty of one-on-one reps against one another throughout the course of the game, and he simply didn’t have very many clean wins.

Yes, Strange is good. Or at least he certainly looks the part at the beginning of his career. And he was supposed to. That’s why he was taken in the first round. But this isn’t the first time Heyward’s played against a good guard. He’s made Quenton Nelson look like Doug Legursky.

No, this was not one of the games Heyward is going to want to remember after he retires. He’ll want to remember it now, because he’s the kind of guy who focuses on the plays he didn’t make so he can correct them. But the results speak for themselves.

Tomorrow, we’re actually not sure who he’s going to play against. Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio is currently ailing, and I’m not sure if he’s going to play. If he can’t go, then the start would go to either Michael Dunn or Hjalte Froholdt, neither of whom are stars nor pushovers.

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