Pittsburgh Steelers rookie tight end Connor Heyward is now tied for third on the team in touchdown receptions following yesterday’s win in Atlanta—with one. On his eighth reception of the season, fellow rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett found him in the end zone in the stadium of the team where his father once played before he was even born. And Pickett doesn’t believe it was an accident.
“It was special. Cam [Heyward] talked to the team before and I talked to Connor. We were walking out to the tunnel and said we’re gonna get the win for his pops today,” he told reporters after the game via the team’s website, “and for him to go out there and get his first touchdown in this building today, I think it’s incredibly special. It’s not a coincidence. I think everything happens for a reason. Incredibly proud of him and really happy we got the win for both those guys.”
Their pops would be Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, a legendary player for Pitt, from which Pickett was just drafted by the Steelers. Connor went to Michigan State, though Pickett told reporters that he made the pitch for him to come to Pitt with him.
Ironhead passed away in 2006 at just 39 years of age after a year-long battle with brain cancer. Eldest brother Cameron was not due to hit his college years for another year in 2007. The Steelers drafted him in the first round in 2011, and the rest is history, having developed into one of the great defensive linemen of his era.
Younger brother Connor was just drafted in 2022 in the sixth round and is still very much attempting to carve out his niche on the team. He has been playing every week, extensively on special teams and occasionally more prominently on offense, functioning as both a blocker and receiver.
He now has eight catches on the year on nine targets for 93 yards and one touchdown, his longest being a 45-yard catch-and-run that stood as the team’s longest offensive play of the season until tight end Pat Freiermuth recorded a catch and run for 57 yards yesterday.
Unlike Cameron, Connor (born nearly a decade later in 1999) was born and raised in Georgia, attending Peachtree Ridge high school (as did his brother) before moving on to Michigan State. Both, of course, spent time growing up there as one of their father’s final stops in the NFL, playing for the Falcons in 1994-96.
The state means a lot to the family, as does Pennsylvania of course, but it’s where so many of their memories of Ironhead reside. It’s the home of his resting place, which they visited before the game, Cameron told reporters after the game.
Emotions ran high, but so did their performances, both positively contributing to a winning effort and making critical plays. Pops would certainly be proud of them. And you can only imagine the rollercoaster of emotions mom, Charlotte, has been on this week. If they say that football is family, then the Heyward family is football. Especially in Georgia and Pittsburgh.