Steelers Announce Winners of The Chief, Joe Greene Great Performance Awards

Cam Heyward Steelers

Justin Berl/Getty Images Cameron Heyward of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs onto the field during player introductions on December 19, 2021.

On Wednesday the Pittsburgh Steelers announced the winners of a pair of team awards, including “The Chief” award, which was won by defensive end Cameron Heyward. It’s the third time Heyward has been bestowed the honor (2014, 2019, 2021), tying Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis as the second Steelers player to be so recognized three times.

“The Chief” award was established in 1988 in honor of Steelers founder Arthur J. Rooney Sr. It’s presented annually by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America to a member of the Steelers organization that best exemplifies the spirt of cooperation with the media that its namesake embodied.

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“I just try to be honest, good for my teammates, and then try to handle my job as a leader (and) as a captain,” Heyward said during his media session on January 5. “I know it’s my third time winning this so now it’s becoming another ‘senior award,’ but I got a couple more in me so hopefully we can keep this streak going.”

The five-time Pro Bowler went on to give credit to his parents for raising him “a certain way.” He also acknowledged the efforts of Shelly Poe, who was Director of Football Communications at Ohio State back when Heyward played for the Buckeyes. (Poe currently serves as Assistant AD/Communications for Football and Men’s Tennis at Auburn University.)

“They (Ohio State) helped prepare me for dealing with the media—and not only dealing with the media—but creating relationships and being able to talk open(ly) and understanding that you have a platform and you can use it for good or bad.”

Heyward, 32, oftentimes gets ribbed by teammates and head coach alike about his relatively advanced age. Yet he is playing some of the best football of his career; in recent years he has frequently been named among the Top 100 or even the Top 50 players in the NFL. And he figures to have a good shot at winning The Chief award again in the future. In September 2020 he signed a five-year contract extension that keeps him with the Steelers through the end of the 2024 season.

Heyward is also the Steelers’ Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award nominee for 2021, the winner of which will be announced the Thursday before Super Bowl LVI.

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Najee Harris Wins the 2021 Joe Greene Great Performance Award

Also on Wednesday the Steelers related the news that 2021 first-round pick Najee Harris has won the Joe Greene Great Performance Award, which is given to the team’s top rookie.

Harris was selected with the No. 24 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft out of Alabama. On Monday January 3, 2022, he established a new franchise record for most rushing yards in a single-season by a Steelers rookie with 1,172 yards. The old mark was held by Hall of Famer Franco Harris, who rushed for 1,055 yards in 14 games in 1972.

Najee Harris also set a new franchise record for most yards from scrimmage by a rookie, passing Le’Veon Bell, who had 1,259 yards from scrimmage in 2013. With one game remaining in the 2021-22 season, Harris has 1,172 yards rushing and 440 receiving yards, for a total of 1,612 yards from scrimmage.

The Joe Greene Great Performance Award was established in 1984. Harris is the fourth tailback to receive the honor, following in the wake of Warren Williams (1988), Bam Morris (1994) and the aforementioned Le’Veon Bell (2013).

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