Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Connor Heyward logged 174 snaps on offense during his rookie season. While some of that was an extension of injuries at the position providing him opportunities, he proved to be a bigger contributor than the vast majority anticipated him to be from the outset.
And he’s hoping for an even bigger role entering his second season, including getting the ball in his hands. Appearing on the Steel Here podcast, he said that he was looking to get more touches “For sure” in 2023. He recorded 14 touches in all as a rookie, including two carries, which he acknowledged he would like to do more.
An undersized player for a tight end, Heyward was used in a variety of ways as a rookie. Utilizing him most effectively will be an ongoing experiment, and whether or not that includes handing the ball off to him more frequently remains to be seen. He has a background as a running back in college.
In all, he caught 12 passes on 17 targets for 151 yards and one touchdown. That proved to be a rather special touchdown, taking place in his hometown of Atlanta, where his late father Craig spent a portion of his career and where he raised his family, including eldest brother Cameron. The two of them visited their father’s grave earlier that day before the game.
Of his two carries, one was a 21-yard gain at the end of the game against the Las Vegas Raiders that sealed a victory. Though it was unlikely to make a difference, he wisely gave himself up in bounds to allow the clock to expire with under 25 seconds to play. His other rush picked up six yards in the finale to convert on 3rd and 1.
Heyward made the 53-man roster over Kevin Rader, who spent a few seasons on the Steelers’ practice squad, and in spite of the fact that they were also carrying fullback, Derek Watt. He served as the third tight end behind Pat Freiermuth and Zach Gentry.
With both Gentry and Watt, due to become unrestricted free agents at the start of the new league year, it is unclear what the blocking skill position rooms will look like by the regular season. If they feel that Heyward is capable of doing what Watt was asked to do on offense (which often was rather little), that would open another door.
The Steelers would like to re-sign Gentry, their number two tight end. He said himself that he would be surprised if the team didn’t do what they needed to do to try to keep him. But he also acknowledged at that time that nobody had yet spoken to him about contract details.