It is easy to get caught up in the pomp and circumstance of an NFL regular season game. You watch intently as four meaningless preseason games drip away, and when you finally get to the games which actually matter, your attention can be diverted away from some of the really good storylines which develop over time.
Even as someone who writes multiple articles a day about the Pittsburgh Steelers, some narratives get lost in the shuffle. One of those types of stories was the return of Cameron Heyward. I realize Heyward played in the preseason, but it is easy to forget how Heyward was lost for the season last year due to a torn pectoral muscle.
He didn’t play during the team’s 9-game winning streak. He wasn’t on the field for the agonizing defeat against the New England Patriots. No, he had to watch, but on Sunday, he was back.
In fact, it wasn’t until I saw this tweet from Heyward when I realized how gratifying it must feel for him to be back on the football field.
Dang it felt good to be back @steelers pic.twitter.com/NO8dGP9P8V— Cam Heyward (@CamHeyward) September 10, 2017
You see, Heyward isn’t just a former first round draft pick, and one heck of a football player. He is the team’s defensive captain, and a leader in every imaginable way. But Heyward didn’t just return to the field, he returned to his dominant ways in the process.
Heyward finished the day with three total tackles, one sack, one quarterback hit and 1.5 tackles for a loss. Not a bad day, but the analytics show he performed much better than the simple statistics show. In terms of pass rushing productivity, Heyward ranked among the best for interior defensive linemen in Week 1, according to PFF.
Interior defender PRP leaders from Week 1 pic.twitter.com/JKopfDYH9q— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) September 11, 2017
So, while everyone is praising T.J. Watt for his tremendous debut, and rightfully so, Heyward was there anchoring the defense and leading. Doing what he does best. As for me, his return was a pleasant sight as a fan who has enjoyed watching him develop throughout his NFL career.
It had been 301 days since Heyward played in a regular season game, but who is counting...oh, he was...
Well we are finally here! It took 301 days to get back to the game I love. I'm excited, I'm… https://t.co/mwjQDMYsjC— Cam Heyward (@CamHeyward) September 10, 2017