2011 NFL Draft Results: Sizing Up College Career of Pittsburgh Steelers Pick, Cameron Heyward

What a night it was from Radio City Music Hall in New York City. It began with a chorus of boos showered upon NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. And the fun and excitement remained at a fevered pitch for the remainder of the evening while 32 young men saw their dreams realized. For the six-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, patience was required before it was their turn to select at No. 31. We'll probably never know if Kevin Colbert was unsuccessful at brokering a deal on Thursday night -- either up or down and out of the first round. But we do know that the Steelers did ultimately stand pat at with the 31st pick. With it, they drafted Cameron Heyward, five-technique defensive end out of Ohio State that projects to be a nice fit for the Steelers' 3-4 defensive scheme.

I'm still putting together my thoughts on the selection. Part of me has reservations about taking Heyward, but I'm not quite ready to spell those out just yet. And frankly, maybe those will dissipate as I gather more information, talk to more people, and continue thinking things over. For the time being, let's just look at some of the highlights of Heyward's four year career at Ohio State.

Cameron Heyward Career Highlights:

  • Durability -- Heyward entered this year's draft process with some question marks surrounding his injured shoulder after undergoing Tommy John surgery following the '11 Sugar Bowl. The words 'Tommy John' are nightmarish in the sport of baseball, but in football where there's far less unnatural stress placed on the elbow , it's not nearly the same concern. Aside from that one question though, the kid has really been quite durable during his time at Ohio State. Heyward started 46 of 52 possible games, highlighted by a string of 45 starts over the course of the final 46 possible games he could have suited up. 
  • Versatile Productivity -- Heyward was stout against both the pass and the run while with the Buckeyes. He finished with 15 sacks and 163 tackles. Neither of those totals jump out at you, but considering his position, they're plenty impressive. 
  • No Stranger to the Backfield -- Heyward left tOSU with 37.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, the 10th most in school history. 
  • Five-Technique Capable -- We can get into this at a later date, but you'll likely hear the term 'five-technique' thrown around when describing Heyward. All that refers to is where he lines up, in this instance between the offensive tackle and tight end. Five-technique defensive ends are tasked with occupying blockers at the line of scrimmage on running downs, and then making teams account for them off the edge in pass rushing situations. Heyward did just that at Ohio State, and given how the Steelers deploy their DEs, the theory is that Heyward's experience and skill set will translate nicely.
  • No Stranger to Hardware -- Heyward garnered numerous awards during his four years in Columbus. As a senior in 2010, he was a team captain, named to the first team All Big Ten team, and was the recipient of the Bill Willis Award, given by the OSU coaches to the team’s Outstanding Defensive Player. As a junior in '08, Heyward was a Lombardi Award nominee and a second team All Big Ten team. As a freshman in '07, he was an Rivals.com freshman All American selection, and also named to the Freshman All-Big Ten Conference squad. 

All very impressive, but what I really find most intriguing about the young man is his personal story. I'll save that for later on Friday rather than lumping everything together here. But as a quick hint at what I find interesting, I'll mention that it's not often that you find a kid who grew up in the type of household that he did be so well-grounded, make such smart choices, and avoid making even a single mistake that could easily be rationalized by his unique set of circumstances. I may have my reservations about the Steelers' strategy to not move up given how the first 18 picks of the draft unfolded, but for the 31st pick in this year's draft, the Steelers sure got themselves a productive player who meshes into their schematic philosophy perfectly. And not only does Heyward bring absolutely zero baggage with him to Pittsburgh, he also is the product of a unique situation that could in a round about way help him have an even better career than might be projected when assessing only his physical skill set.

Once more, welcome Mr. Heyward! And as always, Go Steelers!

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