Cam Heyward embraces leadership role with Steelers
Dec. 26, 2014
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward spent his childhood in NFL locker rooms watching father Craig, a fullback for five teams from 1988-98, handle victory and defeat with equal grace.
It molded Heyward's approach to the game. His father made the playoffs just three times in 11 seasons but did his best to stay positive and honest.
Heyward is already assured of a second postseason appearance in four years heading into Sunday's showdown with Cincinnati for the AFC North title. He has emerged as one of the young leaders of a defense in transition. It's a role he's still growing comfortable with, though his steady play on the field has left little doubt about his spot in the hierarchy.
After bouncing from one side of the defensive line to the other since the Steelers made him their first-round pick in 2011, Heyward appears to have settled in at left defensive end. He leads the Steelers (10-5) with 6.5 sacks to go with 20 quarterback pressures, three pass breakups and 32 solo tackles. And after missing out on his first Pro Bowl, Heyward earned the "Chief" Award on Friday for his cooperation with the media.
The award is named after Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney Sr., an honor that Heyward accepted even if he isn't sure he's doing anything special other than passing down the lessons he gleaned from his father.
"It doesn't come easy and it doesn't come lightly," Heyward said. "I don't want to be recognized just for what I say. I want to be recognized for what I do."
Linebacker Arthur Moats figures Heyward's productivity on Sundays is merely a reflection of what happens from Monday through Saturday.
"I think the biggest thing about Cam is his work ethic," Moats said. "Every day in practice, he works hard to be the first one off the ball. He runs after the ball on every play and really doesn't take a play off, even in practice. So, when you see a guy perform like that on the field, and off the field with his study habits, those two things have helped make him the player he is today."
Moats believes that Heyward's accountability has led to his on-field success. Heyward thinks those qualities translated to his off-field work as well.
"I think accountability goes along with swallowing your pride and understanding that you're at fault sometimes," Heyward said. "There are times when I don't want to talk, but . I think you guys deserve it."
Heyward added that he's still not comfortable as a team spokesman.
"But I've gotten better at it," he said. "The only time I'll be comfortable is when everybody's jumping around and we've got a Super Bowl ring on."
Wide receiver Martavis Bryant, the Steelers' fourth-round draft pick this year, received the award for the team's top rookie. Bryant has seen action in nine games with two starts and has 25 catches for 528 yards and seven touchdowns. He has five catches of 40-plus yards with scoring plays of 94 and 80 yards. Earlier this year, Bryant set an NFL record with six touchdowns receiving in the first four games of his career.
Notes: Safety Troy Polamalu (knee) and cornerback Ike Taylor (right forearm, shoulder) are questionable for Sunday's game against Cincinnati. . Tackle Kelvin Beachum (back), tight end Matt Spaeth (elbow) and linebacker Vince Williams (ankle) are probable.
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