Steelers Star Ticked at ‘NFL 100’ Rank, Promises to ‘[Exorcise] Demons’


Jared Wickerham/Getty Images Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward with head coach Mike Tomlin.

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward has been named to the’s ‘Top 100 Players in the NFL’ list for four of the past five years. And this year he was rated #84, up four spots from last season. But with Heyward coming off a career year in 2019, the modest improvement in his ranking wasn’t enough, and he lashed out on Twitter, writing:

“The hate has been at a [sic] all time high! Thank God we have a season right around the corner. Need to exercise [sic] some demons.”

Presumably Heyward doesn’t want to “exercise some demons,” otherwise he’s somehow integrating witchcraft into his workout routine. But it’s clear that he is annoyed—and motivated—by being somewhat disrespected by his peers.

In fact, he re-tweeted Pro Football Focus, who has him as the No. 40 player in the NFL entering 2020, and the “2nd highest-graded defensive player in the entire NFL in 2019”—PFF’s ratings being more data-driven and less subjective than those of the list.

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Cameron Heyward an Unrestricted Free Agent in 2021

Why is Heyward so touchy about his ranking? Perhaps he is simply using it as a motivational tool. Perhaps he is anxious to get to training camp so he can begin playing football again. Or maybe he’s upset that ‘COVID-19 adjustments’ have forced the Steelers to postpone negotiating a contract extension that would keep him in Pittsburgh for the remainder of his career.

After all, it’s not unthinkable that he will receive the franchise tag designation in 2021 instead of a new deal. Or that Pittsburgh’s salary cap woes will allow him to hit unrestricted free-agency next year, along with six or eight other key Steelers players.

Steelers Defensive Line Chasing a Franchise Record in 2020

Meanwhile, Cameron Heyward and the team’s NFL-best defensive line will be chasing a franchise record this season. If the Steelers defense records 50 or more sacks in 2020, it will be the team’s fourth-consecutive season with 50+ sacks, which would set a new franchise record.

It would also bring the team within one year of tying a longtime NFL record, as there are three NFL teams that have had 50+ sacks in five consecutive years. Yet no team has had a four-year run like the Steelers since the 1980s, which illustrates how much more difficult it can be to get sacks these days, despite the fact that teams are passing the ball more than ever.

But with a top 5 pass rushing duo in the form of T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree, it stands to reason that the Steelers have a good shot at setting a new franchise mark, assuming Heyward & Co. play 16 games, of course.

Steelers training camp is scheduled to begin tomorrow, with the players reporting to Heinz Field, as opposed to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., where the team has held training camp every year since the 1960s.

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