Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers are deep into the season, it’s time to take stock of where the team stands. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the regular season as it plays out. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning for each one. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: TE Connor Heyward
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The rookie tight end got the opportunity to play nearly a season-high in snaps on Sunday due to Pat Freiermuth’s injury and was able to close out his season on a high note, making three catches and recording his second carry of the season.
Before we start off, I want to remind people that I’m using ‘tight end’ for Connor Heyward as a simplifying procedure. He has been used primarily in tight end roles, but he’s obviously not a traditional tight end and we should anticipate seeing his role expand, or perhaps more accurately diversify, as he gains more experience.
But regardless of his progeny, I think it’s fair to say that he had a solid rookie season as a sixth-round draft pick. For one thing, he played nearly 300 snaps on special teams and had a decent chunk of tackles to show for it, as the most immediate measurement.
But he also got to play 174 snaps on offense, 25 of which came in the finale. Even if that was largely due to tight end Pat Freiermuth suffering a knee injury during the game, it still proved informative, and a reminder of the connection that he has with fellow rookie, quarterback Kenny Pickett.
He was targeted four times during the game, catching three of them for 45 yards, including a beautiful elevated grab down the seam for 27 yards. He also got his second carry, this for six yards to convert on 3rd and 1.
I do have to say that his fourth and final target could’ve gone better. Pickett looked for him in the back of the end zone on 2nd and goal from the one. There were a lot of things Pickett should’ve done better on the play, including ball placement, but the pass still went off of and through Heyward’s hands, and I wouldn’t be mad at anyone for calling it a drop.
Still, it was a good day overall for the rookie, capping off a season in which he managed to catch 12 passes on 17 targets for 151 yards with a touchdown, and to contribute two first downs on two carries for 27 yards. Considering the many who were convinced that he was just here because of his last name, he has only just begun to prove the naysayers wrong, as more will be expected of him next year, and I believe he will deliver.