Connor Heyward labeled as Steelers surprise offseason standout in 2023

  • Conner Heyward's chemistry with Kenny Pickett continues
  • Is the tight end in store for a bigger role in 2023?
Connor Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers
Connor Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It's hard to take much away from football in shorts and shells. While organized team activities and mandatory minicamp somewhat make it feel like football is back, we can't draw many hard conclusions from what we see. Still, the Pittsburgh Steelers had several players who stood out in a positive light during the offseason.

Out of OTAs and minicamp, we were hearing plenty of positive things about certain players like the speed and quickness of Calvin Austin III, the heads-up plays by Cory Trice Jr., and the catch radius of Darnell Washington.

However, there was another young player who was quietly turning heads during the offseason. Recently, team reporters at ESPN wrote about the biggest surprise standouts of the offseason. Brooke Pryor chose second-year tight end, Connor Heyward. Here's what she had to say:

"Entering his second season, the younger brother of Steelers defensive tackle Cameron Heyward is primed for an even bigger role. He made the most of playing 15% of offensive snaps last season, catching 12 of 17 targets and hauling in a touchdown. His chemistry with quarterback Kenny Pickett continued through the spring, and with Derek Watt's departure, Heyward could fill the role as the team's primary fullback and see time as an undersized yet strong tight end."

Brooke Pryor, via ESPN

Although he had a very small sample in the receiving game, Pryor boasted the fact that he caught 12 of 17 targets last year. What she didn't mention was that Heyward managed an impressive 8.9 yards per reception. Pryor claims that the chemistry with Pickett continued to build this offseason and hinted that he could be in line for more work on offense in his second season.

What to expect from Connor Heyward in 2023

While he might not be a true breakout candidate due to the lack of volume he will receive, Connor Heyward could certainly prove to be an asset for the team in 2023. In addition to operating as the third tight end and the H-back, Heyward could also be taking up the role of fullback as well.

This certainly doesn't mean that Heyward will always be used as a lead blocker, but the added snaps could lead to more usage as a pass-catcher -- an area he thrived at as a rookie.

With Calvin Austin returning from IR and players like Allen Robinson and Darnell Washington added to the roster this offseason, we probably can't expect a big uptick in targets this year. But that doesn't mean that Heyward won't make his presence felt.

No matter what he was asked to do last year, Heyward seemed to execute at a high level. He may not be the biggest or most athletic, but football simply runs in his blood. Heyward had a surprisingly good offseason and we should expect quality play from the former Steelers draft pick in year two.