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Cameron Heyward gives himself a 'C' grade for 2013

The emerging Steelers defensive end didn't think much of his breakout 2013 campaign. But if he's hard grading on himself, he's even harder on those trying to block him.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

For Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward, "C" stands for "Dominate."

Not to suggest Heyward is a rockhead - on the contrary, the scheme employed by the Steelers through defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is not for the feeble-minded. It's that the Steelers' third-year former first round draft pick gave himself the letter grade that typically denotes average.

His 2013 season was anything but average. And his future may shoot him all the way to the top echelon of grades among 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL. writer Teresa Varley penned an extensive feature on Heyward, noting Heyward's rise from special teams to starter came from his added effort in the weight room and general development of knowledge and technique.

He didn't start in the Steelers' first four games, and through his performance in the final 12, he's easily considered to be a future core player on the team, and a rising star in the NFL.

Perhaps it's not a coincidence Heyward's starting role came after the team started 0-4, but finished 8-4 to end the year. His team-high 31 quarterback pressures were a big part of it; a shining beacon in an otherwise dismal pass rushing season for the team.

With a boost in that regard in 2014, perhaps the Steelers can break the sacks doldrums they've been in over the last three seasons. Their 34 total sacks in 2013 was the lowest total in two decades, and they've finished no higher than 15th in the league in that stat from 2011-13.