In the midst of last Sunday night’s telecast of the Seahawks-Steelers game, NBC announcer Cris Collinsworth referred to Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward as a “no-question” Hall of Famer. On Wednesday longtime NFL insider John Clayton appeared on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh and offered a different opinion.
Asked if Heyward is on track for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Clayton not only dismissed his chances outright, he said Heyward isn’t even the best defensive lineman on his own team. “When Stephon Tuitt is healthy, he’s better. Heyward a Hall of Famer? Please,” sneered Clayton.
Long story short, the two-time first-team All-Pro got wind of Clayton’s comments and used a clip from the The Office to illustrate his response.
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Cameron Heyward on the Hall of Fame: ‘I Want It’
John Clayton’s take comes on the heels of a Twitter reply from a day earlier, when Heyward, 32, admitted that he’s highly motivated to earn admission to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I want it and I’ll work my tail off to prove it,” he wrote.
Working against Heyward is that he was drafted at time when the Steelers could afford to bring him along slowly. As noted by Pro Football Reference, Heyward didn’t become a starter until his third season (in 2013), and didn’t make his first Pro Bowl until 2017, an honor that he has received every year since.
The bottom line is that the former first-round pick (No. 31 overall in 2011) out of Ohio State probably needs to be named first-team All-Pro at least a few more times to receive serious consideration for the Hall of Fame. A Super Bowl ring wouldn’t hurt either.
But it’s hard to ignore that Heyward appears to be getting better with age. Prior to the 2021 season, Pro Football Focus rated him as the No. 31 best player in the NFL, up from No. 40 a year earlier.
“His best four seasons in terms of PFF grade have been his most recent four seasons, and Los Angeles Rams All-Pro Aaron Donald is the only interior lineman who has a higher overall PFF grade since 2019,” noted PFF’s Sam Monson at the time.
But thus far this season, Heyward has a 92.3 PFF grade, ranking him No. 1 in the NFL at his position, just ahead of Aaron Donald. On Sunday he recorded his 60th career sack, tying him with former outside linebacker Joey Porter for fifth all-time in Steelers history.
How Might Mike Tomlin React to John Clayton’s Comments?
And while Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin hasn’t had a chance to address John Clayton’s comments, he probably isn’t too upset about them. In the past Tomlin has noted how Heyward uses the words of doubters to fuel his performance. That includes those who have made an issue of Heyward’s age.
“Please keep talking about [his age],” a grinning Mike Tomlin said after Pittsburgh’s season opener, a game in which Heyward dominated his way to four tackles, one sack, a quarterback hit, 12 quarterback hurries, one tackle for loss, two passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. “We’re all motivated in different ways. Cam is one of those guys who is always looking for reasons to rise up in the face of something. You throw his age in his face and, even though he knows what you’re doing, he has to respond. That’s the competitor that the man is.”
Fortunately for Pittsburgh, Heyward figures to be a Steeler for the remainder of his illustrious career. In September 2020, Heyward signed a new five-year contract that keeps him with the organization through the 2024 season.
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