Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers have been waiting for 2011 first-round pick Cam Heyward to show something worthy of being a first-round pick.
This could be the season that the 24-year-old defensive end rewards the Steelers coaching staff for their patience.
After a very strong preseason, the Ohio State product is expected to see a much larger role in the defense, beginning when the Steelers host the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
Heyward hasn’t made much of an impact during his first two seasons in the league, but it looks like he will be given the opportunity to do so this season.
“We feel really good about Cam Heyward,” Tomlin said during his press conference. “I think he’s had a very good preseason and training camp. We’re going to feature him in some sub-package football. He’s going to get a number of snaps. We’re excited about that group.”
You should see Heyward get a long look early on in the season as the Steelers generally rotate more defensive lineman in and out of the game when the weather is warmer.
If Heyward starts to produce, and he should have things figured out by now, it may not be long before the third-year pro becomes a fixture up front for the black-and-gold.
In other news on the Steelers’ defense, Jason Worilds will start at outside linebacker, but Tomlin said rookie Jarvis Jones will play a lot on Sunday.
Also Tomlin noted they won’t use a rotation at safety, despite both Troy Polamalu (32) and Ryan Clark (34 in October) getting older. That means rookie Shamarko Thomas won’t see any time in the Steelers’ base defense.
Finally, the team announced captains on Monday with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and center Maurkice Pouncey being named offensive captains and defensive end Brett Keisel and Clark getting the honors on defense.