Cameron Heyward is still going strong for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but we know this won't last forever. Someday in the near future, Heyward will hang up his cleats for the final time in the NFL. At that point, we will be quick to engage in conversations as to where he belongs on all-time Steelers lists.
Comprising an all-time greatest players list for the Pittsburgh Steelers is incredibly challenging, as it requires to cross-compare players at different positions across generations. But what if we were to narrow it down to just interior defensive linemen? Where would Heyward rank on such a list?
Across the years, the Steelers have played in both odd and even fronts along the defensive line, and there have been an array of position labels and subcategories that we could classify players in. For this discussion, will table it to defenders who fit the IDL mold -- even if they were labeled as something else.
In other words, we won't include the 4-3 defensive ends over the years like L.C. Greenwood, outside linebackers like James Harrison, or edge defenders like T.J. Watt. Instead, let's stick with the big guys -- the guys who primarily be listed as interior defenders or defensive tackles in today's NFL.
Where does Cameron Heyward belong on Steelers all-time IDL list?
Obviously, 'Mean' Joe Greene is the first name we need to throw out there. Not only was Greene one of the best defensive players of his generation, he went on to be considered one of the very best of all time. He claims the number one spot on this list of defensive linemen.
After Greene, however, Heyward's name could be inserted as the second-best on this list. No Heyward does not have the Super Bowl rings to boast like the players from the historic Steel Curtain defenses of the '70s. However, he does have plenty of personal accolades, including 6 Pro Bowls and 3 First-team All-Pro honors -- all of which have come since 2017.
Just after Heyward, interior defenders like Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith, and Ernie Stautner come into play. These rankings become much more complicated if we include former base 4-3 ends or edge defenders like L.C. Greenwood, Dwight White, James Harrison, or T.J. Watt.
Regardless, I still believe that Heyward ranks near the very top of this list. Despite not having elite interior defenders surrounding him, he has still been an outstanding player and team captain for the Pittsburgh Steelers and is regarded as one of the interior defenders in the league.
No matter how you choose to classify the varied and complex roles of the defensive lineman throughout Pittsburgh Steelers history, there's no question that Cameron Heyward will go down as one of the defensive linemen to ever play the game for this team. As great as some of these players have been over the years, I would rank him second to only Joe Greene among Steelers' best interior defenders.