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Steelers DE Cameron Heyward expects 'big season' for NT Steve McLendon

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Most predict the strength of the Steelers' defensive line to be with Cameron Heyward, but the fourth-year pro thinks it will come from the man in the middle.

Kirk Irwin

Steve McLendon is all that stands between a future Pro Bowl defensive end and the unknown.

On his left, Steelers 2013 breakout player Cameron Heyward. On his right could be a combination of newly signed free agent Cam Thomas, former seventh round pick Nick Williams and former undrafted free agent Brian Arnfelt.

Heyward expects McLendon to be the catalyst that brings all of them together, according to a report from ESPN reporter Scott Brown.

Many expected McLendon, and not Heyward, to have the breakout season in 2013. McLendon replaced stalwart nose tackle Casey Hampton, and mixed in with some injuries (and mixed reviews), he had a decent season. It wasn't exactly Hampton-like, but the hope was to let his pass rush and quick burst off the ball lead the Steelers' defensive line into a more aggressive penetrating unit.

"I’m expecting a lot out of Steve," Heyward told Brown. "He’s struggled with some injuries (in 2013) but that’s part of the game. He’s definitely grown a lot and he sees his mistakes and definitely wants to be the best he can be."

Heyward also said he expects Thomas to play both end and tackle, picking up the swing position vacated by Al Woods, who signed with the Tennessee Titans in March.

He also mentioned Arnfelt has been working out with him frequently, and has learned a lot in his time with the veterans - Heyward and ex-Steelers DEs Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood.