The Pittsburgh Steelers have seen what Connor Heyward is capable of in the passing game, and the team could turn to the rookie tight end more often.
When the Pittsburgh Steelers spent a sixth-round draft choice on Connor Heyward in the 2022 NFL Draft, fans were quick to jump to conclusions. As the little brother of All-Pro defensive lineman, Cameron Heyward, many believed this was strictly a selection to appease one of the best players on the team. However, it’s becoming very clear that Connor belongs.
With strong family bloodlines (his father was Craig “Ironhead” Heyward), nobody was surprised to see Connor Heyward make the final roster, and he was immediately used heavily on special teams. However, over the first four games of his career, Heyward only saw 12 snaps on offense and didn’t earn a single target.
Since then, the arrow has been sharply pointed up. Heyward has logged 108 offensive snaps since seeing his very first target against Buffalo in Week 5. Though he’s only had 10 passes thrown in his direction this year, the results couldn’t have been much better.
According to ESPN stats, Connor Heyward has caught 9 of 10 targets for 106 yards and a touchdown. This has equated to a remarkable 144.2 passer rating when thrown to.
Obviously, the more that Heyward is involved, the more likely it is that these numbers plummet back down to earth, but so far, he’s done nothing that suggests that he shouldn’t be a big part of the offense moving forward.
Steelers could turn to Connor Heyward in a bigger role
Even with Diontae Johnson hogging the market share for targets in this offense, Steelers quarterbacks have gotten a plethora of pass-catchers involved. Against the Ravens in Week 14, Mitch Trubisky threw to 9 different players — 7 of which were targeted multiple times. In Week 13, Kenny Pickett threw to 10 players with 9 recording at least one reception.
The problem is that most skill players on the Steelers have been very inefficient with their looks. Steven Sims, for example, is averaging a mere 3.3 yards per target on 16 opportunities this is near the bottom of the league. Similar things happen when Pittsburgh quarterbacks target Zach Gentry from the slot.
I know that Connor Heyward isn’t the biggest or fastest tight end. At 5’11 1/8” and 233 pounds, his build is much closer to a running back or fullback. However, the rookie does have some good lateral movement skills, excellent hands, and a tremendous feel for the game.
Because of how efficient he has been, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Heyward start getting on the field for more packages while cutting into the workload of players who have been less spectacular this year.
I don’t think that Connor Heyward will ever be a player who will light up the box score or earn more than a handful of targets in a single game. But it’s clear that he has been an asset with his limited usage on offense, and his role could grow very soon.