The Pittsburgh Steelers had high expectations for Cameron Heyward when they took him with the 31st overall pick in the 2011 draft. But so far the results haven’t lived up to those expectations for the athletic defensive lineman from Ohio State University.
A dominant force in college, Heyward has failed to make his mark in the NFL during his first two years.
Much of that has been due to the fact that he’s been buried on a depth chart in Pittsburgh filled with good defensive linemen. Casey Hampton, Ziggy Hood and Brett Keisel have kept him on the sidelines for much of the last two years.
But this year things should be different for him. Hampton is gone and Keisel is getting older. While Hood has been the starter for the last two years, he hasn’t done enough to close the door on a possible position battle with Heyward this summer.
Despite his lack of production during his first two years, he’s only tallied 31 tackles and 2.5 sacks, Heyward’s potential is enough to keep him in the mix for playing time this fall.
And it all will depend on the kind of training camp he has. The third year can be the charm for some players, especially defensive players in complex schemes.
The 3-4 system that Heyward played in at Ohio State asked him to do different things than the one that the Steelers use. At Ohio State he was set free to rush the passer and make plays, where the Pittsburgh defensive linemen are asked to be more disciplined.
The path has never been more wide open for Heyward to earn playing time, and this summer he’ll need to step up and show he has what it takes to be the next in the long line of dominant defenders in the Pittsburgh.