Steelers’ Cam Heyward Recalls Insult That Had Him ‘Ready to Fight’ Ryan Clark

Cam Heyward

Stacy Revere/Getty Images Cameron Heyward of the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 3, 2021, in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

During a wide-ranging interview on the Mina Kimes Show on May 31, 2022, the host asked Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Cam Heyward to reveal something that fans wouldn’t know about her ESPN colleague, Ryan Clark.

“Oh, that I was ready to fight Ryan Clark one day?” answered Heyward, before recalling an incident that occurred early in the 2013 season, when the team was struggling mightily and Heyward wasn’t yet contributing much, despite being a first-round pick (Ohio State) in 2011.

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As you may know, Heyward and Clark were Steelers teammates for the first three seasons of Heyward’s career, before he achieved anything approaching the All-Pro status he enjoys today. Clark was near the end of his eight-season run as Pittsburgh’s starting free safety.

“There was a day, I think it was like, 2013, and I wasn’t starting at the beginning of the season, and he called me a ‘bust.’ And I was ready to swing on him right then and there,” added Heyward, who by that point in time believed he was ready to replace fellow former first-round pick Ziggy Hood in the starting lineup.

“Then it was like a couple weeks later, and we had just lost in London, so we had a long plane ride home,” recalled Heyward, before noting “this is the game where A.P. [Vikings All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson] ran through us [rushing 23 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns en route to a 34-27 Vikings victory].

“But we got back on that plane, and all I remember is Ryan Clark coming up to me, and he goes, ‘Bro, so why you not starting?’ And I was like, ‘Why do you think? I’ve been waiting to start!’”

Cam Heyward Became a Starter 2 Weeks Later

Perhaps not coincidentally, Heyward replaced Ziggy Hood in Pittsburgh’s starting lineup beginning with the team’s next game — against the New York Jets. The Steelers won that game — and the next, at home versus Baltimore — then went 6-4 the rest of the way to finish 8-8, the second of back-to-back .500 seasons.

Heyward, 33, has been a full-time starter ever since. To this point in his Steelers career, he has started 131 of 166 games and has made the Pro Bowl for the past five seasons, earning first-team All-Pro honors three times during that time frame, according to Pro Football Reference. Along the way he has amassed 540 total tackles (340 solo), including 101 tackles for loss, 68 sacks, 153 quarterback hits, seven forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and a pair of interceptions.

Cam Heyward Plans to Play Until He’s 38

Steelers fans will be happy to hear that Heyward believes he has a lot of football left in him, in part because he played so sparingly during the first two years of his career, when he appeared in 32 games but did not make a start.

Heyward told Mina Kimes he wants to play five more seasons, which would take him two years beyond the contract extension he signed in September 2020, which binds him to the Steelers through the 2024 season.

Of course, this year will be the first time that Cam Heyward will have the opportunity to play with his younger brother, Connor, who the Steelers selected in the sixth-round of the 2022 NFL Draft after following his progress throughout his college career at Michigan State.

Looking back, it’s remarkable how far Cam Heyward has come since 2013, when few would have predicted the on-field success he has achieved in the years since. In April 2022, CBS Sports named Heyward the best player ever drafted No. 31 overall.

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