Steelers Cameron Heyward earns respect on the NFL Top 100 list

Steelers, Cameron Heyward
Steelers, Cameron Heyward / Michael Longo/For USA Today Network /

The NFL Network has been slow-releasing its Top 100 players list of 2023. These selections were voted on by the players, and to many fans, the rankings don't hold any real meaning. Starting with the 100th player on the list and counting down, the Pittsburgh Steelers didn't have a single representative from players 51-100, but it was only a matter of time before one of their star defenders popped up on the list.

After a long wait and five full-release episodes without a single Steelers representative, we finally have a player represented on this list. Cameron Heyward comes in as the 45th overall player in the NFL ahead of the 2023 season, as voted on by the players.

This impressive ranking slots him ahead of players like EDGE Haason Reddick, CB Patrick Peterson, QB Dak Prescott, and OG Zack Martin. Though Heyward did not earn First-Team All-Pro honors in 2022, he still finished with an impressive stat line that included 10.5 sacks, 14 tackles for a loss, and a career-tying 23 quarterback hits, per Pro Football Reference.

Admittedly, Heyward was more productive when T.J. Watt was on the field, but these are some pretty impressive numbers for a 33-year-old player who was missing Watt alongside him for nearly half a season. In addition to his impressive production, Heyward also graded out as the fifth-best interior defender last season, according to Pro Football Focus -- earning an overall grade of 89.8 on the season.

Where does this Cameron Heyward's ranking compare to previous years?

Despite being a first-round pick all the way back in 201, Heyward didn't earn his first Pro Bowl until the age of 28 in 2017. Heyward saw his first appearance on the NFL's Top 100 list in 2016 -- coming in 88th.

The following year in 2017, Heyward missed the list after his 2016 season was cut short due to a pectoral tear. From there, he was 48th in 2018, 88th in 2019, 84th in 2020, 57th in 2021, and 42nd last year at this time.

In 2023, Heyward dropped just three spots on the list. This isn't bad considering all of the up-and-coming players who are seeing the list for the very first time. At the age of 34, Heyward is still showing that he has plenty of gas left in the tank.

Though it's likely he has already seen his highest spot on the NFL's Top 100, the hope is that Heyward can continue to make this list for at least another year or two. If he does, it probably means he is still playing at a high level in his mid-30s.

At this point, only two more Pittsburgh Steelers players are expected to make the list -- both on the defensive side of the ball. We could see Minkah Fitzpatrick's name pop up soon, followed by former Defensive Player of the Year, T.J. Watt.