The NFL is not patient with you. My Mom always preached to have patience. No one wants to be patient when you are in the situation you are. Coming from the school I came from, Ohio State, where I played right away it was humbling to wait here, but I got to learn from some great guys.
Even though Cameron Heyward was a 2011 first round draft choice and an important cog in Ohio State’s defense during the entirety of his collegiate career, he still rode the pine like most rookies do while they adjust to and learn Dick LeBeau’s defensive system.
Norm in Pittsburgh aside, it is no shock that Heyward, or any other highly touted young player for that matter, would have been upset with the lack of playing time he received during his first two professional seasons. I’m also sure that it did not sit well with him that he had to wait his turn behind Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood and Aaron Smith while he spent most of his time on special teams either.
To his credit, the former Buckeye’s patience, hard work and positive attitude have finally paid off for him during his third professional campaign. Not only did Heyward entrench himself as a full-time starter in the middle of the season, his productivity this fall has been nothing short of fantastic.
After not starting a single one of his 31 professional games during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Heyward has started 10 this fall for Pittsburgh. After collecting a combined 2.5 sacks and 35 tackles during that stretch, the defensive end has racked up 47 tackles and 4.0 sacks during his 13 regular season games this fall!
A question mark heading into this year, Heyward has erased all doubt with his play since he entered the Steelers’ starting lineup. Best of all, the former Buckeye has established himself as the long-term answer at Smith’s old left defensive end position.
It has been fantastic to see Heyward take full advantage of his opportunities to play and start this fall. His patience and hard work have paid off for him in full, and the third-year defensive end should be in line for a contract extension if he continues to improve.
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