The 2015 version of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense will look different from the unit they have fielded over the last few years. They are a team in flux. A team in the middle of rebuilding. Signing young defensive end, Cameron Heyward, to a 6 year extension is an intricate part of that process.
Heyward is, pure and simply, a force. In 2014 he tied for the team lead in sacks and was a consistent disruption in the oppositions offensive backfield. He was enough of a force to warrant a 6 year, $50.25 million dollar contract.
This was the perfect signing at the perfect time. It goes a long way in providing this young team with a cornerstone in which they can build a temple where we defensive enthusiasts can worship.
In Cameron Heyward we see so many of the traits that we attribute to legendary Steelers icons. He has the work ethic. He possesses a team-first mentality. He has the talent backed up by drive and desire.
When Cameron first entered the 2011 draft, many of the stories written about him had less to do with his ability than it did with him being the son of NFL legend “Ironhead” Heyward. There was much made about him already being aware of the perks and the pitfalls of NFL life. More stories than not, were about is ability to him live up to his father’s legacy,
Cameron did, in fact, learn invaluable lessons from his childhood. He knew that his father’s name would get him noticed in high school. He knew that the notoriety would get him media coverage during the draft process. More importantly, however, he was aware, that once drafted, the NFL doesn’t barter in the accomplishments of your parents. Ironhead’s legacy was worth little to nothing once the young prospect stepped on the field.
When talking to Cameron, you get the immediate feeling that he is appreciative of his NFL heritage but that he is ready to move off that subject and talk about how he defines himself. I asked him that specific question during an interview his rookie year, and followed up on it in a recent phone conversation.
"Cameron said, “Yea, I never wanted to live off of my father’s legacy. I know I had a lot of expectations placed on me because of him, but my goal has always been to be judged by who I am and what I accomplish. Part of that is being more than just an athlete. I want to be someone who my family can be proud of…someone who I can be proud of……and someone who represents the Steelers and the NFL in a positive way”."
In that regard, Cameron is doing exactly what he set out to do. In a sport full of players who act as if they are above the rules and ethics of its own fan base, its refreshing to find an athlete of his caliber who has their personal life together. Someone who is truly genuine and sees the NFL as a job and not a lifestyle.
Perhaps its this attitude that keeps Cameron on the sports page and off the evening news. When Cameron is mentioned on sports talk shows, written about in the media, or becomes the subject of conversation around the water cooler, it is inevitably about Cameron Heyward the player, and not Cameron Heyward the entitled athlete.
The Steelers appreciate this type of maturity in its players. Yes, Cameron learned some valuable lessons by growing up around the NFL and he has translated that knowledge into becoming an exceptional defensive end and possibly an even better human being. He has become more known as Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end, and less known as the son of Ironhead Heyward. He has earned a name of his own.
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