In stunner, Steelers take Heyward
Friday, April 29, 2011 12:10 AM
Written by Bob Smizik
The Steelers pulled a stunner late last night in the first round of the NFL draft. With cornerback considered their top priority, and with only three players already taken at that position, the Steelers instead opted for a defensive end who has deep Pittsburgh bloodlines with the 31st pick in the draft.
With cornerbacks Aaron Williams of Texas and Brandon Harris of Miami available, the Steelers selected Ohio State's Cameron Heyward, the son the legendary Ironhead Heyward.
To bypass what was considered their biggest need and to take a player who plays a position that was their No. 1 draft choice just two years ago, the Steelers clearly loved Heyward, who is 6-5, 294 pounds and born in Pittsburgh.
Not only did they pass on two cornerbacks but also highly regarded offensive tackle Derek Sherrod of Mississippi State.
``I think he’s capable of doing it all," said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin of Heyward. ``This is an impeccable young man.''
Kevin Colbert, the Steelers director of football operations, said, ``We feel this is one of those special players I talked about the other day. It's hard to find a hole with this guy. This is a special moment."
Here’s a scouting report on Heyward.
Ironhead Heyward, who died in 2006 at 39, was a standout running back at Pitt and the first-round draft choice of the New Orleans Saints in 1988. Ironhead was the proverbial wild and crazy guy, who did some things off the field he wasn’t proud of. He also had an enormous heart and a ready smile and was wildly popular with teammates and media.
As this story indicates, Cameron looked up to his father, but walks a much straighter path.
``I know he's watching," Heyward said of his father. "I'm going to try to do everything to make him proud of me and live his legacy on."
Cameron Heyward’s mother, Charlotte Blackwell, is a Pittsburgh native and a Pitt graduate. His grandmother is Judy Jordan, a former Pittsburgh school teacher, who still lives in the city.
The Steelers return three starting defensive ends next year so there will be little pressure on Heyward to make a major contribution. But two of the ends are up in age. Aaron Smith, who missed significant playing time in 2009 and 2010 with injuries, will be 35 next season. Brett Keisel will be 33. Ziggy Hood, the team’s No. 1 draft choice in 2009, started and played well in place of Smith last season.
Defensive end figured to be one position the Steelers would not be seeking first-round help. Cornerback and offensive tackle were believed to be their greatest needs. If a defensive linemen were to be taken, the conventional wisdom was it be a nose tackle, where there is no heir apparent to Casey Hampton, who will be 34.
But the Steelers loved Heyward, and with the reputation the franchise has and with his Pittsburgh background Heyward is thrilled to be a Steelers.
"I've always loved the team, I'm from there ... To be somewhere you want to be is an unbelievable feeling," he said.
It would figure the Steelers will be looking for cornerbacks or offensive lineman when the second and third rounds of the draft are conducted tonight. But based on their first-round pick form is not holding in this draft.