Disrespect for Steelers star DL Cameron Heyward has gone on too long

Recent NFL Top 100 rankings have Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward much lower than his peers. Here’s why the disrespect needs to end.

Cameron Heyward isn’t the flashiest player on the football field. He’s not going to wow you with other-worldly athleticism, and he’s isn’t a player who often posts videos of himself to social media. However, the Steelers defensive lineman is one of the NFL’s best and most consistent players, and it’s a shame that the rest of the league hasn’t learned that yet.

Recently, Heyward was ranked on NFL Network’s Top 100 Players of 2020.  But after slotting in at just 84th on the list, fans were outraged – and rightfully so.

Despite earning three straight Pro Bowl appearances and two first-team All-Pros in the last three seasons (the only interior defender besides Aaron Donald to do so), Heyward once again flew under the radar as the player-voted honors were announced.

Though he had a relatively slow start to his NFL career, his last three years in Pittsburgh have been remarkable, as he combined for 179 tackles, 29.0 sacks, 37 tackles for a loss, 63 quarterback hits during that span, according to Pro Football Reference.

But despite his utter dominance and the statistical production that can only be bested by Aaron Donald, Heyward fell well short of his defensive line colleagues in the NFL 100 rankings. Here’s how he compared to a few of the guys ranked above him:

Though Chris Jones and DeForest Buckner are great players in their own right, when it comes to statistical production, Heyward takes the cake with no contest. But despite his eye-popping numbers, his overall grade from last sesaon, and his first-team All-Pro status, somehow he still hasn’t been given the respect he deserves.

In contrast, Buckner and Jones have combined for just 2 Pro Bowls and 0 All-Pros in 8 NFL seasons, and Heyward has quite literally outpaced the two of these defensive linemen combined in many statistical departments.

I’m certainly not arguing that Buckner and Jones did not deserve to make the list, as they are clearly some of the best defenders the league has to offer. But what’s the reasoning for the ranking gap between those players and Heyward? Though Buckner and Jones were both ranked inside the top 56 NFL players in the league, Heyward sits well behind at the 84th spot. If anything, I could argue that Heyward should be even higher.

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Regardless of what this panel of players had to say when comprising their rankings, Steelers fans know just how good Cameron Heyward is for this team. Whether the rest of the league catches up eventually or not will be up to them.

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