Pittsburgh is a football city, unambiguously, unabashedly, and unmistakably. It’s a city in which you can tell whether or not the Steelers won most recently just by walking around and judging from the tone of the people around you.
There probably isn’t a more passionate fanbase in the NFL than the Steelers have, particularly in Pittsburgh. But nobody takes Steelers losses harder than the guys in the locker room and perhaps especially Cameron Heyward, who was born in the city.
“I take them very seriously. I’ve always been a fan of the Steelers, and it bugs me, it eats at me”, Heyward said about losses during his most recent Not Just Football podcast episode. “I don’t like losing. I’m not a sore loser, but it stays with me, and I feel like I’m the reason why we’ve lost. So I’ve got to pick up my game, and I’m not running from it, and looking forward to the Jets game”.
The Steelers, of course, have just lost two games, first on last Sunday against the New England Patriots, and then on Thursday against the Cleveland Browns. Neither game was particularly well-played by either the offense or the defense. While bright spots persist, much work must still be done to make this a competitive team.
As for Heyward, he has recorded 12 tackles during these two losses, including one tackle for loss, as well as a batted pass, but it wasn’t enough. The defense held the Patriots on Sunday to 17 points, and that’s ordinarily enough for a win, but it wasn’t that day, and that makes the result unacceptable.
The defense did allow a season-high 23 points to the Browns on Thursday, giving up three touchdowns and a field goal (with one missed extra point). The offense matched the first two touchdowns, and even led 14-13 for a full quarter, but Cleveland came back with 10 unanswered points after that.
More notably, the defense allowed the Browns to gain at least 57 yards on five consecutive drives spanning from the middle of the first quarter all the way into the fourth. They allowed three touchdowns and a field goal in that span, with one turnover on downs in field goal range.
Now, how much of that is on Heyward specifically? Not much, of course. But he’s not just one player on this unit. He’s also the captain of the unit, the sole captain on the field while T.J. Watt is on the sidelines as well.
It’s understandable and even expected that these losses weigh heavier on him. He’s one of the guys others are supposed to look to in these situations and take their cues from. Frankly, there probably isn’t anything you can say about his play that he doesn’t say to himself after a loss. And he actually goes back and watches his own tape, so he knows.