In a virtual meeting with local Pittsburgh media on Thursday, Steelers defensive captain Cameron Heyward tackled a variety of topics. One question in particular which dealt with on-field play for the 2020 season involved the Steelers defensive line group. Mentioning the loss of Javon Hargrave as well as the return of Stephon Tuitt and the acquisition of Chris Wormley, Heyward was asked his thoughts on the group as a whole for the upcoming season.
“I think we have a great group of guys that can play a multitude of spots,” Heyward stated. “We can move all around. And I think that’s what made Hargrave so great. He was able to move around.”
It was Hargrave’s versatility of playing anywhere along the defensive line which landed him his career-high number in snaps for a season after Stephon Tuitt was lost for the remainder of the year following his injury in Week 6. Stepping up to the task, Hargrave managed to land himself a lucrative deal in Philadelphia which averages $13 million a season over the next three years. As far as replacing his production on the line, Heyward is confident the Steelers have pieces who are up to the task.
“Obviously, we’re going to ask a lot of other guys. Whether it’s Dan McCullers or Tyson Alualu, I look for those guys to step up. But then you had guys like Chris Wormley to the group and I look for younger guys to step up. Whether it’s a Cavon Walker or Carlos Davis—guys who you might not have known and are new to the Steeler way—we got to get those guys up and running.”
When it comes to the Steelers young players, they have an uphill battle to become heavy contributors in the 2020 season. With no in-person meetings or practice time, players new to the Steelers this season will have a challenge in jumping on the proverbial “moving train” which head coach Mike Tomlin often mentions.
But if anyone on the Steelers understands what it’s like to have a limited offseason going into their rookie year, it is Cameron Heyward and the rest of the 2011 draft class. With the NFL and the players union dealing with a lockout which carried into August, Heyward discussed the similarities between this year‘s draft class and what he had to deal with coming into the league.
“It was tough because I couldn’t get a playbook,” Heyward said. “I feel like I was running with my head cut off. I couldn’t have the information from a strength coach. I couldn’t pick the brain of my D-line coach. Little things like that where I didn’t know how to work out for the team and what they expect.”
Heyward went on to explain how many of these things will also affect the rookie class of 2020.
“Those are things that are going to go in with this new class. I think the last time players have really interacted is through these Zoom meetings, and Zoom meetings can only do so much. You’re not going to get those those physical reps. For me, personally, I didn’t even get physical reps and I didn’t even get time with my coach to even talk about those plays. So I think the rookie class will have a leg up from the 2011 class. I feel like we were playing so much catch up that the 2011 season was a whirlwind, but they’re definitely up against it right now.”
While the parallels are not exactly the same, the 2020 rookie class will have a lot in common with the group from 2011. Luckily for those on the Steelers, one of their team captains is someone who has been there and understands the challenges. Although Heyward already offers so much to the teams as a leader, team rep, and Walter Payton Man of the Year candidate, having yet another shared experience with young players makes him an ideal candidate for young players to learn from.
Cam Heyward’s complete interview with the Pittsburgh media can be seen HERE.