It took longer than he would’ve liked but Cam Heyward is headed to the Pro Bowl. Heyward was named as an alternate for Sunday’s Pro Bowl Games, replacing Kansas City Chiefs’ DT Chris Jones, who won’t participate after his team punched their ticket to the Super Bowl.
The Chiefs beat the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday 23-20, heading to their third Super Bowl in the last four years. They’ll take on the Philadelphia Eagles, who blew out the San Francisco 49ers’ in the NFC Title Game.
For Heyward, it’s his sixth-career Pro Bowl appearance. He lost out on the initial ballot to New York’s Quinnen Williams, Tennessee’s Jeffrey Simmons, and Jones, selected as an alternate and now getting the nod in Jones’ place. Even in his age-33 season, Heyward had a strong season, finishing the year with 10.5 sacks. He ended the season on a high note, picking up two sacks in the season finale against the Cleveland Browns.
Heyward has had back-to-back 10+ sack seasons to give him 78.5 in his career. He’s now second in franchise history in sacks, now trailing James Harrison by just two. He’s likely to overtake Harrison early next season and will compete with T.J. Watt to be the first one to do so.
His six Pro Bowls match the number Ben Roethlisberger, David DeCastro, and L.C. Greenwood had. Only 13 Steelers in franchise history have been selected to more.
Though Heyward’s 2022 season had lulls, especially while Watt was injured, he hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down. Still one of the game’s strongest interior defensive linemen, his bull rush is still potent while his effort and chase to the football is unmatched. Off the field, he’s the clear leader of Pittsburgh’s defense and a community leader, a five-time selection as the team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee.
For the first time, the NFL has scrapped its traditional Pro Bowl game, replacing it with mini-games and skills competitions that will take place on Sunday in Las Vegas. It’s not even clear what events Heyward will participate in. So while the actual trip isn’t likely to be eventful, Heyward’s Pro Bowl nod is important. A borderline Hall of Famer, every Pro Bowl appearance he can put his resume is critical. While one singular Pro Bowl might not seem like much, the difference between having seven Pro Bowls versus six by a career’s end might be the difference between going to Canton or not. Heyward was not named to this year’s All-Pro team so having at least a Pro Bowl marker is important.
To get into the Hall of Fame, he’ll likely at minimum need to make another Pro Bowl and one more All-Pro team. Every defensive tackle in NFL history with 7+ Pro Bowls and 4+ All-Pros have made their way into Canton.
Heyward will be one of Steelers’ representing this year’s Pro Bowl. Free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is the other, elected on the initial ballot. T.J. Watt was also part of the original vote but pulled out due to the pec and rib injuries he battled through during the season.