When the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers season ended, fans knew what was coming. The offseason which started was one of drastic change in many ways. Ben Roethlisberger was retiring from the game, and General Manager (GM) Kevin Colbert was slated to retired after the 2022 NFL Draft.
Outside of the GM search, with the departure of Roethlisberger it marked the last player to have won a Super Bowl with the Steelers left on the roster. It also marked the departure of the team’s leader.
Who would fill those shoes?
With such a young offensive roster it seemed rare it would come from that side of the ball. The defensive side of the ball is where the experience resides, and you can easily see one of those players, if not more, stepping up to take the reins as the team leader.
When you look at the defensive roster, you can see several candidates who are primed to step into the vacant leadership role. Minkah Fitzpatrick and T.J. Watt could be that guy for the Steelers, but Cam Heyward is the one who has stepped up as the guy thus far in the offseason.
During Phase 3 of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) Heyward has been mentoring the younger players and helping them get acclimated to not just life in the NFL, but with the Steelers.
“I got my degree in education and I am still teaching,” Heyward told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. “I enjoy it. I had guys who taught me the me the way and I want to make sure I am an instrument, a vessel for guys that need to learn. Brett (Keisel), Aaron (Smith), Hamp (Casey Hampton), Hokie (Chris Hoke), Ziggy Hood, Steve McLendon, they all taught me and took me under their wing, and I made sure I learned from them.
“I hope the guys are sponges and appreciate it. I am never going to steer you wrong. I just want this team to be great.”
The last sentence if what should resonate with fans. “I just want this team to be great.” That is what a true leader shows to the rest of his teammates. Not just the passing down of information, but the desire to do whatever it takes to make the team better.
Cam is doing just that, and he understands how sometimes hearing helpful advice from fellow players, and not coaches, can be more impactful to younger players.
“I think it resonates more,” said Heyward. “It’s one thing for a coach to say it, it’s another for a player who has been through it to say it. I have been through my share of battles. I think I have won more than I lost. There is going to be a level of experience I have over guys.
“If I can prepare you for those moments and not let you make mistakes, that goes a long way.”
The below video of Heyward working with rookie defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal shows the type of leader Heyward is becoming for the black and gold.
This is @CamHeyward in a nutshell. In the middle of a drill he steps in to give rookie @boimarv9 some tips, just like vets did for him as a young player. He offered similar tips to others as well. pic.twitter.com/gd0FX1Ziwu— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) May 26, 2022
Some will see the above quotes and think Heyward is only tutoring defensive linemen and helping them get better at their craft. Understandable, but I see something completely different. I see a player who is taking over as the team leader for the Pittsburgh Steelers. A position which needed filled, and Heyward has the game, and attitude, to fill the huge shoes left by Roethlisberger last season upon his retirement.
The hope is under Heyward’s leadership the Steelers are able to get back to the Super Bowl and bring home another Lombardi trophy.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the rest of OTAs and mandatory minicamp.