From Ralph N. Paulk, Trib Media:
Cam Heyward hears the whispers of criticism, mostly that he’s not the dominant pass rusher the Steelers envisioned when they snatched him off the board with the next-to-last pick during the first round 2011 draft.
The fourth-year defensive end admits he still has room to grow. But last Sunday night at Carolina, he took a step toward developing into the player he imagined when he was inserted into the starting lineup in Week 3 last season.
“When we lose, I’m too hard on myself sometimes,” Heyward said. “I might feel as if we lose because of me.”
The Steelers humbled the Panthers, in part, because of Heyward.
Heyward didn’t have a sack, and he recorded only one tackle. But he helped cage Carolina quarterback Cam Newton in the pocket, thus teeing up the slightly wounded yet elusive signal caller for a usually timid pass rush that netted three sacks and six quarterback hits in a surprising 37-19 rout.
“We always talk about being physical, so we have to apply pressure with three- or four-man fronts,” Heyward said. “It definitely makes us stronger. We affect the quarterback, and that’s the main thing we wanted to do. We want the quarterback to feel you. Even if you’re not there, he’s seeing ghosts.
“I have to play well all the time,” Heyward said. “I put that on myself. I don’t need someone to tell me that if I don’t step up we won’t get the job done. I want to be the dominant player when I’m out there.”
Heyward, though, figures the Steelers can contend for a playoff berth for the first time in three seasons if the defense also is consistent.
“We’ve talked all week about building on what we’re doing,” Heyward said. “We can’t afford to take a step back.”
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