We are one day closer to the start of Pittsburgh Steelers training camp, and we continue to plow through the 30 scenarios leading up to the team reporting to St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. Today's scenario focuses on the defensive side of the ball, and if Cameron Heyward can lead the team in sacks for the third straight year.
Scenario: Cameron Heyward leads the team in sacks for the third straight year.
Why it will happen: Cameron Heyward doesn't play a position which is known for dominating sack totals. A defensive end, or tackle, in a 3-4 defensive system is supposed to eat up blockers and allow the linebackers to roam to the football and dominate the line of scrimmage. However, since 2014 Heyward has been getting to the quarterback more than any other defender on the team.
In 2014 he tied Jason Worilds with 7.5 sacks, and followed that up in 2015 with 7 sacks, a half sack better than linemate Stephon Tuitt.
So, why will this actually happen again in 2016? First, Heyward is mastering his craft in the Steelers defense. Second, Keith Butler wants his defensive lineman to rush the quarterback and not just take up blockers. Lastly, the Steelers transitioning to more hybrid defenses will only allow Heyward to be more dominant along the defensive line.
The Steelers want to get after the quarterback, and Heyward is primed to do so for a third year in a row, finishing the sack leader trifecta.
Why it won't happen: Success can mean a lot in the game of football, and one of the more important facets of success is attention. When you are as dominant as Heyward has been from his defensive line position, opposing coaches will throw more double teams your way. This will open up more opportunities for players like James Harrison, Bud Dupree and even Stephon Tuitt, but it could hurt Heyward's production.
With that said, the Steelers also don't have the premiere outside edge rushers to help deter some of the attention off of Heyward. Durpee is still extremely young and raw, Harrison has proven he can still play, but not as a full-time starter, and the rest of the pack is average at best. This doesn't bode well for Heyward leading the team for the third year in a row.
Prediction: If you asked me in 2014 and 2015 if Heyward would lead the team in sacks in consecutive years, I would have laughed and said, "No." Here I am, writing about Heyward possibly leading the team in sacks for the third straight season. Heyward has continued to improve every year, and all reports from inside the team's training facility is Heyward is determined to be even better in 2016.
After being the 'Doubting Thomas' in previous years, I think I will put my faith into Heyward next season. After all, what is better than watching Cam "Wreck It" Heyward dominate offensive linemen and land on those nice, soft and fluffy quarterbacks?