No one’s showing Cam Heyward the door. Not yet. But one day, he’ll have played his last down for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the team will have lost one of the best players of his era. But Heyward knows he’ll be passing the torch to T.J. Watt. Hours after both were named team captains, Heyward spoke to the media and praised how much Watt has grown.
“T.J.’s said it before, he was more of a quieter guy when he first got here,” Heyward told reporters as shared by Steelers Live. “But as I get older and he starts to grow, I like seeing that. One day down the road T.J.’s gonna have this [team] and it’s gonna be in good hands.”
Heyward’s still playing his best ball, coming off arguably the greatest year of his career. But Watt’s on a torrid pace few players have been able to match. He has a chance to become the first player in NFL history to lead the league in sacks three years in a row. While his game on the field has grown, so has his leadership off it.
“He’s all about the team. He’s started to encompass, just more bringing guys together. His play speaks for itself. You’re not a Defensive Player of the Year without playing some type of way. But the way he challenges guys and the way he’s just matured and became a bigger captain and a better captain because of it.”
Watt’s leadership is a little less visible or vocal compared to Heyward’s. But Watt’s certainly grown into his own and taken on a bigger leadership role, now one of the faces of the franchise and among the best defensive players in football. His leadership can be a little less obvious, but he and teammates have talked about the nuggets of information Watt gives to the rest of the front seven. For example, during the 2020 COVID year, Watt watched the TV tape to hear quarterback cadences, crowd noise wasn’t an issue, and that helped him and the rest of the Steelers’ pass rush time the snap count.
This is the second year Watt has been named a team captain, first garnering those honors in 2020. This is the third straight year a Watt has been a team captain. T.J. in 2020 and 2022, with Derek named a Steelers’ special team captain in 2021. For Heyward, being named captain is annual tradition. He’s served in that role for now eight straight seasons.