Despite not making the playoffs this year, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a lot to look forward too. Their rookies this season played very well, and one of the rookies who was impactful, much to the surprise of the fanbase, was tight end Connor Heyward.
Heyward, a sixth round draft pick out of Michigan State finished the season with twelve catches for 151 yards and one touchdown. After Pat Freiermuth went out with an injury today, Heyward saw more playing time and played exceptionally well. Heyward caught three passes for 45 yards including a huge 27 yard third and long catch to help set up the Steelers’ game icing score.
After the game, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about Heyward’s progression on the season and how he took advantage of the opportunities given to him.
“I think it’s about opportunities for young guys,” Tomlin during his press conference streamed via YouTube. “You know, due to a variety of circumstances he got increased opportunities as the season wore on and he proved that he belonged. And I’m sure that’s gonna be a nice springboard for him in terms of transitioning from year one to year two.”
Entering the season Heyward was not expecting to see much playing time but due to his ability to both block and catch, he found himself on the field. When he was on the field he was effective, especially towards the end of the season, as he was opening up holes on blocks to help spring Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren on big gains.
Obviously Freiermuth is TE1 (though his injury in today’s game had the look of something serious) in Pittsburgh but being able to find a very good TE2/3 who can do both block and catch is huge. The Steelers haven’t had a really good dual tight end threat since Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth in the late 2000’s, early 2010’s. The three tight ends Pittsburgh has now in Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, and Heyward all are good in their own ways and honestly it might be the deepest tight end room in the NFL.
While the season may not have ended the way the Steelers wanted it too, the whole organization has to be happy with the upward trend of the team, and especially from the rookies like Heyward at the end of the season.