For Pittsburgh Steelers star defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, age is just a number.
Entering his age 34 season, Heyward is playing some of the best football of his career and is showing no signs of slowing down. That makes it no surprise that ahead of the 2023 season, Heyward is one of the five best players in the NFL over the age of 30, according to Pro Football Focus’ John Kosko.
Kosko ranked the 30 best players 30 and over entering the 2023 season Thursday and Heyward landed at No. 5 overall, behind San Francisco offensive tackle Trent Williams, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce and Las Vegas wide receiver Davante Adams.
“Heyward has been one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL for several years, only to be overshadowed by Aaron Donald’s utter dominance. He has earned six straight PFF grades above 84.4, five of them over 89.1,” Kosko writes regarding Heyward’s ranking at No. 5 overall. “He ranked third at the position in pass-rush win rate in 2022 and finished fourth in sack rate.”
The Steelers’ star and team captain is coming off his second-straight 10-plus sack season, recording 10.5 last season. He has put together a remarkable stretch of dominance that includes six straight trips to the Pro Bowl and first- or second-team All-Pro accolades in four of the last six seasons.
He’s like fine wine at this point: getting better with age.
As Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said earlier this offseason, Heyward loves to defy the odds. That’s what he continues to do season after season as he puts together a career that will one day make the case for a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Don’t expect Heyward to slow down anytime soon, either, even if some questions about a future retirement continue to pop up.
Drafted in the first round in 2011, Heyward has already logged 12 NFL seasons, all in Pittsburgh. He should break James Harrison’s team sack record in 2023, though he will have to get there before T.J. Watt does as they’re neck and neck currently.
Heyward has had one of the more remarkable second-half careers in the Black and Gold. Since 2017, after suffering a torn triceps, he has played at another level, making the Pro Bowl every season. He’s tallied 53.5 sacks with 396 tackles, 73 tackles for loss, 122 quarterback hits, six forced fumbles, two interceptions, and 28 passes defensed in the past six years.
During that same span, Heyward has earned three first-team All-Pro honors and two second-team All-Pro honors.
Heyward remains a force for the Steelers and really isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Assuming the defense can have a bit more luck from a health perspective in 2023, Heyward should continue to see a lot of one-on-ones in the trenches, allowing him to dominate week after week.
That dominance alone makes him one of the best players in the NFL, period, let alone one of the best age 30 or older.