Steelers News

‘I’ve Got More Years In The Tank’, Cameron Heyward Says After Offseason Of Reflection

Cameron Heyward turned 34 years old earlier this month. He knows more than most, I’m sure, that the vast majority of players who play his position are out of the league at this point. He’s preparing to go into year 13. And after a period of contemplation following the 2022 season, he’s come to a realization.

The reflection period was long. For me, it’s just understanding that I’ve got more years in the tank”, he told reporters during OTAs yesterday, via the team’s website. “I’m excited to keep attacking it and trying to figure out this puzzle to win a Super Bowl”.

While Heyward never really used the “R” word this offseason pertaining to himself, that being retirement, it did become a conversation because of certain comments that he made. Referring to his contract status, he alluded to the fact that the team wants to have him back as well. Many players in his position might find himself let go. But it is also about looking back in order to look forward.

“I use that just to give myself some space to really look at the situation”, he said about his offseason reflection period. “It’s not [about] retirement, it’s more of a reflection, and really just focus on the season. Every year I’ve got to focus on that because I put so much into it, you need that time away to really stand back see what’s happened and what you want to do”.

Players who are at the stage of their career where Heyward now finds himself are aware that any year could be their last. Their mind may tell them one thing about what their body is capable of but their body may say otherwise.

In his case, of course, there has been no meaningful indication of slowing down. He is on a six-year Pro Bowl run, after all, most of them accompanied by well-deserved All-Pro accolades. He has posted back-to-back seasons of double-digit sacks and is the only defensive lineman in team history to do so, as well as the only lineman with three or more such seasons.

And he hasn’t missed a game due to injury in the past six years. Indeed, he’s only missed time due to injury in one of his 12 seasons, that being one of considerable hardship in that department in 2016. Yet he’s played the best football of his career since then, posting nearly 400 tackles with 73 for loss, 53.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, two interceptions, 28 batted passes, and, of course, six Pro Bowls over the past six years.

If Heyward can keep delivering that sort of play for another few years, that will, of course, be great news. But the Steelers also hope that they’ve been able to give him more help over the past two years. Along with the addition of 2023 second-round pick Keeanu Benton last month, they also extended last year’s free-agent splash, Larry Ogunjobi, and 2022 third-rounder DeMarvin Leal also returns with a potentially expanded role in his second season.

The potential of having others, such as those mentioned, taking some of the weight off of his shoulders should only help Heyward keep going for a few more years. In reality, they have been forced to ask him to play more snaps than they’ve wanted him to for years now simply because they didn’t have alternatives. Perhaps now they finally have.

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