PITTSBURGH -- The jump that defensive end Cameron Heyward has made in his third NFL season has not gone unnoticed by his teammates.
"Cam's been amazing this year," Steelers' free safety Ryan Clark said. "He was coming into a year where he needed to show something. He was coming into a year where guys were talking, 'Is Cam Heyward going to do anything?'"
Heyward has answered such questions in resounding fashion and become a cornerstone on a defense that badly needed some of its younger players to emerge. The best part for the Steelers is the former first-round draft pick is one of the few who refuses to acknowledge that he has arrived.
"I'm just trying to get better," Heyward said. "I'm trying to hold up my end of the bargain."
Heyward has done that and then some, especially since replacing Ziggy Hood in the starting lineup. The Steelers are 4-2 since then, and Heyward has been as good as any player on their defense.
The 6-5, 288-pounder is second on the team with 22 quarterback pressures, and he also has two sacks and four passes defensed.
"Cam has a lot of God-given ability," Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell said. "It just took him some time to learn what to do. He's getting better and better. He feels more comfortable. We wanted to get him on the field because he was making plays."
The Steelers did that initially by playing Heyward in their nickel package. He graduated to the starting lineup after the Steelers' 0-4 start and hasn't looked back.
"Every time you would put him on the field he would just flash, pressure on the quarterback, tackles and now with him playing the whole game he's impacting the game in so many ways," Clark said. "We're lucky to have him."
Heyward has improved every week and imagine how much better the former Ohio State star will be once he knows the defense well enough to play without thinking.
"I'm not there yet but I'm growing towards it," Heyward said. "I think my confidence is there where I know I can play on this level and I can have success."