It is summer, and the dog days of the National Football League calendar. While teams around the league wait until the end of July, or early August, to report to their respective training camps, media outlets are scrambling to create content.
Sure, there is the breaking news of injuries, arrests and new contracts, but between those blips on the radar seem to have become riddled with lists/rankings.
The Top 100 players of 2020
The Best Fantasy Football Values
I could go on, but you get the picture. If you pay attention to NFL news in the offseason, which not everyone does, you know all too well what the offseason content looks like. The folks at Pro Football Focus (PFF) are no different. They are currently in the midst of their Top 50 players series, and when they released players No. 30-40, the Pittsburgh Steelers had their first player on the list.
Take a look at why Cam Heyward was the first Steelers player listed, and where he landed on the rankings:
31. DI CAMERON HEYWARD, PITTSBURGH STEELERS
The later into his career he gets, the better Heyward seems to play. His best four seasons in terms of PFF grade have been his most recent four seasons, and Aaron Donald is the only interior lineman who has a higher overall PFF grade since 2019.
The longtime Steeler’s 75 defensive stops lead all players at his position over the same period by seven, and he trails only Donald in terms of total pressures. The Los Angeles Rams star is in a world all by himself, but Heyward has a good case to be seen as the best interior defender not named Donald in the NFL — and that’s an impressive achievement.
It is good to see Heyward finally getting some credit for the work he does on the interior of the defense. It was just a few years ago when Heyward’s position of defensive end in the Steelers’ 3-4 scheme kept him out of Pro Bowl voting. Fan voting saw Heyward lumped into pass rushers, instead of interior defensive linemen. This has since been changed, and Heyward has been getting more and more credit for his dominant play.
Heyward might not put up jaw dropping statistics, but if you watch the defense closely you see how disruptive Heyward is for the Steelers. His ability to collapse the pocket, take on double teams and make plays in the backfield is second only to Aaron Donald, as PFF pointed out.
Be sure to check back with BTSC to see if any other Steelers players make the PFF Top 50, and as they team prepares for the 2021 regular season.