From Alex Marvez:
Cam Heyward has entered his seventh NFL season having established himself as his own man.
That doesn’t mean the Steelers defensive end has forgotten his roots.
Although his father died from cancer in 2006 at age 39, Cam Heyward said Wednesday he continues to hear fun stories about “Ironhead” to this day.
“Just a couple weeks ago, a woman was able to hand me some photos of my dad from when he was in college,” Heyward told co-host Gil Brandt and me on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “One of them was with him wearing these short, skinny jean shorts.
“I was just like, ‘Wow! If I’d see my dad in that right now, I probably would have freaked out.'”
Heyward has honored his father’s legacy by becoming one of the NFL’s premier defensive linemen. The Steelers will need that strong play to continue with fellow end Stephon Tuitt likely out for at least one game with a biceps injury suffered in Sunday’s 21-18 win over Cleveland.
Heyward praised Tuitt and congratulated him on the new five-year, $60 million contract extension he signed just before the regular-season opener. Heyward, though, also believes the Steelers can weather Tuitt’s absence because of the unit’s depth that includes Tyson Alualu, the former Jaguars first-round pick who notched five tackles in extensive snaps against the Browns.
“It’s not like it’s Tyson’s first rodeo,” Heyward said. “We were very lucky to be able to even get a guy of his pedigree and talent. I think he felt very comfortable playing and didn’t look like a fish out of water.
“When Stephon went down, you expect that drop-off. I thought (Alualu) played with a lot of energy and did his job. That’s what we’re going to need these next couple of games without Tuitt.”
While Pittsburgh limited Cleveland to just 237 yards of total offense, a stiffer test is coming Sunday at Heinz Field against Minnesota. The Vikings gained 470 yards, the second-highest total of opening week, in Monday night’s 29-19 home win over the Saints.
“I thought we started the (Browns) game well,” said Heyward, who finished with four tackles and one of Pittsburgh’s seven sacks of Cleveland rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer. “We started with energy and got the ball back early to our offense. But I think we have to do things to get away from penalties. We had way too many. That’s when drives got started and they started to gain momentum. If we clean that up a lot, we’ll be in the driver’s seat.”
The Steelers also can feel good knowing Heayward should continue to improve after shaking off the rust that came with landing on injured reserve midway through last season (torn pectoral muscle). Heyward admits it was a “long offseason” because of the amount of time he needed to spend rehabilitating.
“Football-wise, you just want to be ready for everything you’re about to get back into,” Heyward said. “I had to stress myself during OTAs and really push myself during training camp to see what I could do and if I could still play at his high level.”
Based on his Week 1 performance, Heyward has once again proven like father, like son.