Steelers’ Heyward: ‘It’s Always On Me’

Pittsburgh defensive captain playing more snaps with Tuitt out

Josh Rowntree
November 12, 2019 - 1:09 pm

Cam Heyward is the king of his defense. And the king is leading the charge. 

"The way I look at it, it's always on me,” Heyward said. “It's not a selfish thing. Heavy is the head that wears the crown. I wear that C on my chest for a reason and I want to be responsible for getting these Ws."

The ‘C’ stands for captain, an honor awarded to Heyward via a team vote. And it’s something he takes seriously, now more than ever.

Heyward played nearly 90 percent of Pittsburgh’s defensive snaps in Sunday’s 17-12 win over the Rams, easily his most of the season. That is a fairly substantial increase from his normal work load. The season-ending injury to Stephon Tuitt is the reason why. 

Before Tuitt’s injury, Heyward was playing 72.7 percent of Pittsburgh’s defensive snaps, excluding the Monday night game against Cincinnati in which Heyward left early with a thigh injury. Since Tuitt went out, that number has gone up to 83.6 percent. 

“I signed up for 16 games, plus,” Heyward said. “I don’t look at the snaps. That’s for (Steelers coaches) to do. I just need to be available. I’ve got to take care of my body and do things to put me in the right position.”

On Sunday Heyward had three tackles, a sack, three quarterback hits and two passes defensed. On the year, he has 5.5 sacks. 

Still though, the load he is carrying right now is a heavy one, despite his continual production. 

“We’ve got Tyson (Alualu), we’ve got (Isaiah) Buggs, we’ve got Dan (McCullers),” said Heyward, who also heaped praise on starting defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, a player who has seen a similar increase in snaps. 

“We’ve got a good group of guys. We’ll rotate when we need to. We’ll just keep going. I don’t know how the game’s going to unfold, but it’s always nice when we get off (the field) early. It keeps us fresh.”

Up next is a Thursday night game in Cleveland, against a Browns team desperate for a win and one with a pair of strong running backs in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Not to mention a quarterback in Baker Mayfield that is, from a public perception standpoint — and more — searching for a performance equal to the hype surrounding him.

So can Pittsburgh’s thriving defense keep it up in a short week, and in a prime-time road game?

“It better be able to,” Heyward said. “We still play a lot of good quarterbacks and a lot of good offensive lines, so we’ve got to take this show on the road.”

Several of Heyward’s teammates have talked about how ‘fun’ playing on defense is right now, even if it is surrounded by consistent pressure due to the struggles of Pittsburgh’s offense. It’s something that the captain loves. 

“It’s fun that it’s all on us,” Heyward said. “I think we enjoy being the catalyst. These games aren’t written out, but for us to discover. We’re just enjoying being the reason why.”

Hear more from Cam Heyward below.