If the team’s performance wasn’t bad enough, the Pittsburgh Steelers suffered multiple injuries in their embarrassing 30-7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1. One of those injuries could lead to a long-term absence.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on September 11 that defensive lineman Cameron Heyward “is expected to miss multiple weeks” because of the groin injury he sustained in Week 1.
Rapoport tweeted that Heyward is “evaluating all options” including surgery. Rapoport also tweeted that Heyward is “likely headed” to injured reserve.
This is the second straight season opener that the Steelers suffered a major injury on defense. In Week 1 last year, edge rusher T.J. Watt tore a pectoral muscle, which caused him to miss seven games.
In those seven contests, the Steelers went 1-6.
Steelers’ Cameron Heyward ‘Likely Headed’ to Injured Reserve
Other than losing Watt again to an early-season injury, this is about the worst news imaginable for the Steelers defense.
Heyward left the matchup against the 49ers in the first quarter. The Fox telecast showed Heyward talking with team trainers. He returned to the game but only briefly before he needed assistance leaving the field again.
During the second half, the broadcast showed Heyward on the sideline out of uniform.
Not only is Heyward a team captain, he’s, by far, the most experienced defensive lineman on the Pittsburgh roster. He’s posted 78.5 sacks, 115 tackles for loss and 177 quarterback hits since being a first-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft.
Last year, Heyward produced his third double-digit sack season. He entered the 2023 campaign just 2 sacks shy of the Steelers all-time record.
Without Heyward, the Steelers will have to rely upon Larry Ogunjobi, Montravius Adams and DeMarvin Leal. But that group isn’t 100% either.
With a banged-up defensive line, Isaiahh Loudermilk and rookie Keanu Benton could receive a lot more snaps in Week 2. The Steelers also have defensive linemen Breiden Fehoko and Jonathan Marshall on the practice squad.
Defensive line wasn’t the only unit that struggled with injuries for the Steelers in Week 1.
Wide receiver Diontae Johnson exited the game with an apparent hamstring injury. Furthermore, tight end Pat Freiermuth sustained a chest injury. He returned to the game and scored Pittsburgh’s only touchdown, but he left again and was considered questionable to return.
Difficult First Matchup Without Heyward in Week 2 Against Cleveland Browns
There is no good time to lose a 3-time All-Pro player. But right now may be a particularly bad time for the Steelers to lose Heyward, as they try to lick their wounds before facing a division rival in primetime during Week 2.
Without Heyward playing much in Week 1, the Steelers allowed the 49ers to average 5.5 yards per carry. Running back Christian McCaffrey posted nearly 7 yards per rush and recorded a 65-yard touchdown in the second half.
Chubb figures to be a major part of Cleveland’s game plan against Pittsburgh in Week 2.
The good news is the Steelers will have an extra day for some of their players to heal because the matchup will be on Monday. But that won’t make a difference in Heyward’s case.