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Thread: Tomlin: Cam Heyward the new leader of Steelers defense

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    Tomlin: Cam Heyward the new leader of Steelers defense

    Mike Tomlin: Cam Heyward the new leader of the 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers defense

    By Jeff.Hartman on Mar 28, 2015

    The Pittsburgh Steelers have seen a tremendous amount of turnover on the defensive side of the football, and with that turnover Mike Tomlin is looking at Cam Heyward to be the physical and vocal leader of the defense in 2015.

    The old regime is slowly fading away from the Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive roster. Brett Keisel is gone, and so are names like Ryan Clark, James Farrior, Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith, Ike Taylor and possibly Troy Polamalu. As James Harrison is returning to the team in a 'supporting role', the defense is in need of a leader.

    As Mike Tomlin spoke to media at the owners meetings in Phoenix, AZ, he was posed the question as where the leadership will come from on the defensive side of the ball. He didn't have to think long to respond.

    "I think that's been clearly defined a year ago. Cam Heyward is the core central leader to our defense and a good one. He's a good player. He's got good football character. He's hard-working. He's a good communicator and he's vocal. It's been fun to watch him ascend over his years with us to that role. I look forward to him continuing to grow in that role."

    Saying Cam Heyward is a good player is similar to putting Ben Roethlisberger in the non-elite category when talking about quarterbacks. Heyward might have started his career slowly, but the past two seasons he hasn't been anything short of great.

    Heyward had 5.0 sacks in 2013 and followed that up with a 7.5 sack performance in 2014, which was tied with Jason Worilds for the team lead. Heyward has gone beyond proving his ability on the field and has solidified his role on the Steelers defense as every bit of the leader Tomlin described.

    Heyward is in the club option of his rookie contract, and is certainly atop the list of players who are due for a contract extension heading into next season. After Tomlin's comments, there is no way the organization allows Heyward to reach free agency and risk losing their defensive leader.


  2. #2

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    Heyward doesn't see defense changing much

    Posted May 21, 2015

    Teresa Varley

    Cam Heyward, who said he wants to play his entire career with the Steelers, thinks there will only be minor changes to the defense under Keith Butler.

    For the past month Steelers players have been hitting the weight room, doing on field conditioning, and getting ready for football to begin.

    On Tuesday, with the start of OTAs, they get one step closer to doing what they love most. But not quite there yet.

    OTAs, which are Phase 3 of the offseason program, are 10 days of practice where the team can do 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, but no live contact.

    For Cam Heyward and his defensive teammates, it will be the first opportunity to really put to work what new defensive coordinator Keith Butler has planned for them.

    “I don’t think there are going to be too many changes,” said Heyward. “It’s going to be the same details. We will have a couple of new wrinkles, but we won’t share them now.”

    There will be a lot of new faces for everyone to get accustomed to in the defensive huddle with veterans like Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, Brett Keisel and Jason Worilds no longer on the roster, but Heyward expects young players to step up to the plate and make a name for themselves.

    One of those players he has high expectations for is second-year defensive end Stephon Tuitt. Tuitt saw spot playing time early in the season, but stepped into a starting role for the final four games after Keisel was out for the season with a torn triceps muscle. He had the normal rookie struggles, but Heyward saw a lot of progress from him and expects more.

    “Tuitt has all of the talent in the world,” said Heyward. “Early on he was like a chicken with his head cut off, all over the place thinking what I am doing here. You want it to become second nature. You simplify it and it becomes easier to make plays. You saw it in the Kansas City game where it became second nature.

    “He has been in certain situations most rookies don’t get to be in. He has been in dog fights. For me, I was behind Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel and they were going through the dog fights. If they weren’t playing I would get my opportunity. We expect Tuitt to be ready to go game one. Tuitt has a high ceiling and we are going to see how high it is.”

    A few other tidbits from Heyward:

    -- On wanting to play his entire career with the Steelers: “The Steelers greats don’t go anywhere else. James (Harrison) did for a little bit, but he is already back. That is what I want to be, a Steelers great, and that means being here the rest of my life, football included and after.”

    -- On the easiest way for young players to learn the defense: “I think the easiest way is to put them in situationally where they don’t have to absorb as much. I think it takes a good half a year or full year for you to digest and play fast. In college you can think more on the run and adjust more. If you are thinking, you are not ready. We want our guys to be full speed all over the place. If you are thinking and guessing it puts the defense at risk. We trust that everybody is going to do the job. We are expecting these guys to learn and if they are ready to go, we are ready to go. Best man wins.”


  3. #3
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    Heyward and Pouncey being leaders of the respective units is awesome....violent **** talkers, love it

  4. #4
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    Heyward has been great, and I still think that he has the ability to make small strides forward in his game. The other side is what really excites me though. Last season we watched Cam Thomas with sprinkles of a raw but talented rook. I can see a huge improvement in what we saw out of the position this year. That improvement up front will only benefit the young guys at LB who will also be looking to step up their games.

  5. #5

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    Steelers Average Age Of Projected Starting Defense Is 26


  6. #6

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    Drafting both Heyward and Tuitt seems like excellent foresight now...normally, premium picks on D-Linemen in our 3-4 isn't a great idea, but drafting for guys who can play 3 downs in sub packages is brilliant...
    Actually, my post was NOT about you...but, if the shoe fits, feel free to lace that &!+# up and wear it.

  7. #7

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    Signing Cam Heyward to extension now makes sense for Steelers

    Jeremy Fowler, ESPN Senior NFL Writer

    A contract extension for Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward would cost more up front, but would be cost-effective in the long term for an ascending player who's not yet a household name.

    The Steelers want Heyward to be a Steeler long-term and have told Heyward as much. Heyward wants to be a Steeler, and a Steeler great -- "that means being here the rest of my life, football included, and after," Heyward told local reporters Thursday. Heyward will play the good-teammate role, assuring he won't "ruffle feathers or make waves," but would love a deal eventually.

    The Steelers have a history of finalizing deals for key players as they enter the final year of a rookie contract, so expect talks to intensify this summer.

    Here are three reasons why doing a deal before the 2015 season makes sense.

    Save long-term money: Heyward has a 2015 option for about $7 million. If he has a huge 2015 season, the Steelers are on the hook for that $7 million, plus a new deal.

    If the team franchise-tagged Heyward after this year, they could be on the hook for $20-plus million for two years. They could probably pay less than that in up-front guarantees if they cut the deal now.

    The meter's running: The Saints' Cameron Jordan, the Jets' Muhammad Wilkerson, the Chiefs' Dontari Poe are all expensive linemen who might get new deals soon.

    Those players aren't going away and they will only enhance the market. Cutting a deal now gets in front of the market.

    The money for 3-4 defensive ends is reasonable: The five-best-paid ends in a 3-4, according to -- J.J. Watt, Calais Campbell, Jurrell Casey, Jason Hatcher and Desmond Bryant -- average $14.66 million in guaranteed money. The Steelers can handle that. Except for Watt, 3-4 ends don't swallow the salary cap.

    Not that Heyward's worried about that.

    "I come to work and help our young guys and learn from our older guys and just try to get better every day," Heyward said.



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