Steelers select Ohio State's Heyward in first round of NFL Draft
By Scott Brown
Friday, April 29, 2011
Addressing defensive line and not cornerback with their first-round pick Thursday night, the Steelers took Ohio State`s Cameron Heyward with the 31st overall selection of the 2011 NFL draft.
The 6-5, 294-pound defensive end is the son of the late Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, who starred as a running back at Pitt before playing 11 seasons in the NFL. Like his father, Heyward relishes physical play.
That attribute, along with his relentless style and ability to use his hands and shed blocks, prompted the Steelers to make Heyward the second defensive end they have taken with their first-round pick in the last three years.
"To be somewhere where you want to be is an unbelievable feeling," said Heyward, a Pittsburgh native who still has family in the area. "I always had a Terrible Towel."
Director of operations Kevin Colbert said Heyward was among the 20 players the Steelers had designated as having the potential to be special in the NFL. Heyward was the last of the 12 defensive linemen taken in the first round of the draft, which is a record.
"This is a special moment for this organization," Colbert said. "We got a guy we really wanted and still have all of our other picks."
The Steelers will make two picks Friday night, one each in the second and third rounds.
The Steelers have more of an immediate need at cornerback, especially since Ike Taylor is an unrestricted free agent who could hit the open market as early as next week. Despite that, the Steelers passed on Texas' Aaron Williams to take Heyward and get younger along their defensive line.
Starters Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel are 35 and 32, respectively, and the former has suffered season-ending injuries three of the last four years.
Heyward, who played four seasons at Ohio State, recorded 94 tackles and 10 sacks in his 2009-10 seasons.
He had six tackles and a sack in Ohio State`s 31-26 win over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl last January. Heyward excelled despite playing much of the game with a serious arm injury.
"I think he`s capable of doing it all," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. "This is an impeccable young man."
Heyward tore ligaments in his elbow in the second quarter against the Razorbacks, and he underwent reconstructive surgery on Jan. 12. Limited at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, Heyward worked out for teams at Ohio State`s Pro Day on April 6, and he checked out medically with the Steelers.
"If minicamp started (Friday) I`d be there," Heyward said of his elbow.
Heyward lived in Monroeville for a couple of years growing up, and both of his parents went to Pitt. His grandparents live in Highland Park, and he has several aunts and uncles living in the area as well.
Heyward has already completed the requirements for the degree in education that he will officially receive in June. When asked what kind of player the Steelers are getting, he said, "A team-first kind of player that`s very accountable."
The Steelers are flying Heyward up from Atlanta Friday so they can officially introduce him to the Pittsburgh media.
Scott Brown can be reached at email@example.com
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