When Connor Heyward was drafted, many people did not know where he would fit in on the team. When he was drafted he was listed as a fullback/tight end hybrid. The problem was that the Pittsburgh Steelers already had Derek Watt as their fullback and the team rarely uses him. At tight end, the Steelers had Pat Freiermuth, who is the clear TE1, and Zach Gentry took a big jump last season and looked like he had TE2 secured.
However, since Heyward joined the team he has consistently impressed, leading to him seeing more playing time. While he still does not see as much time on the field as either Freiermuth or Gentry, his snap counts have been steadily increasing. The last two weeks Heyward has seen the field on at least 20% of the offensive snaps.
Given this increase in usage, offensive coordinator Matt Canada was asked about what he has seen from Heyward these past few weeks in his weekly press conference transcribed by the team.
“I think he has gotten better,” Canada said. “I mean, he’s been a guy that we’ve been high on since we got him, and I’ve been a fan of his. I think I’ve said that multiple times. I think he’s certainly trending in the right direction, as Coach [Mike Tomlin] likes to say, and he made a big play a couple of weeks ago. He made a really big catch, that was a tough catch over the middle on Sunday. I do think when you make those plays, your opportunities continue to grow and through injuries at different spots, different personnel groups, different plans, all those things kind of factor into it.”
While Heyward does not see many targets when he is on the field, he certainly makes every one count. In the last two games, Heyward has seen two passes thrown his way which resulted in two catches for 30 yards and a touchdown. One of those receptions, was the one over the middle that Canada referenced where Heyward received a huge hit directly after catching it.
While Heyward still has a ways to go before he sees TE2 snap count numbers, he is currently making the most out of every opportunity he has gotten. While many people questioned why he was drafted, he has already been proving them wrong. The sixth round pick looks like he may have been one of former general manager Kevin Colbert’s final draft steal.