One of the most important Steelers is set for a significant chunk of time on the sidelines as Pittsburgh tries to recover from the sting of a Week 1 blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Cameron Heyward, the Steelers‘ rock along the defensive line, is likely to head to injured reserve in the coming days after he suffered a groin injury during the 30-7 defeat to San Francisco. Reports have indicated that even surgery could be an option for Heyward — a decision that could result in him missing much, if not all, of the 2023 NFL season.
Heyward facing at least four weeks out
If the Steelers place Heyward on injured reserve, NFL rules require him to miss at least Pittsburgh‘s next four games. These include the Week 2 clash at Acrisure Stadium against resurgent division rival Cleveland, as well as a trip to Las Vegas in Week 3 against the historical rival Raiders — who went on the road and beat Denver in Week 1.
Heyward on Sunday took only 14 defensive snaps as Pittsburgh fell behind early and never led against the 49ers. A first-team All-Pro selection as recently as 2021, Heyward — a first-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft — has been remarkably durable throughout his career, and replacing his multifaceted impact will be a new challenge for longtime head coach Mike Tomlin.
A model of consistency
Heyward has not missed an NFL game through injury since the 2016 campaign, when he played just seven games after suffering a torn pectoral muscle. The 34-year-old has only gotten better with age — over the past two seasons, he has recorded a combined 20.5 sacks, 29 tackles for loss, and 40 quarterback hits.
Heyward’s versatility as a player who can alternate between coming off the edge and matching up with an offensive guard at the line of scrimmage might be the hardest element of his game to replace. Recent draft picks Keeanu Benton and DeMarvin Leal will be in contention to take Heyward’s snaps while he recovers, but there’s no mistaking it — the Steelers‘ subpar start to the 2023 season just got a little worse.