The Pittsburgh Steelers received some good news ahead of Week 16’s AFC North showdown against the Cincinnati Bengals, as All-Pro defensive tackle Cam Heyward has officially cleared concussion protocol, the team’s Senior Director of Communications Burt Lauten reported.
After starting out the week as a limited participant in practice, Heyward was upgraded to “full” Wednesday — a positive sign that he was trending in the right direction ahead of Week 16. However, since the team is set to play on Saturday, his runway for clearance was a bit shorter than it usually would have been.
Heyward’s clearance for Week 16 is crucial, as the defense is already without several contributors in the secondary this week, including safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who was ruled out with a knee injury, as well as Damontae Kazee, who will miss the remainder of the regular season with a suspension following a hit to Colts WR Michael Pittman in Week 15.
Heyward is the third defensive player for the Steelers to have been diagnosed with a concussion, as OLBs T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith suffered concussions ahead of Week 15 and were cleared in time to play. Watt’s concussion in particular forced some questions for the Steelers and the league in terms of whether or not there were any violations of the NFL concussion protocol, and yet another player cleared on a quick turnaround may raise some more eyebrows.