"Going back to my old stomping grounds is going to be fun," said Cameron Heyward, a 6-5 1/8, 288-pound defensive end from Ohio State who was drafted by the Steelers with the 31st pick of the first round last night.
Son of the late Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, Cameron is the spitting image of his father, the powerfully built tailback who played for Pitt from 1985 to 1987 and rushed for 2,950 yards before leaving as a junior The difference between the two is six inches in height – but at the same weight
Craig Heyward bulled his way to 4,301 yards in 11 NFL seasons but passed away five years ago at age 39 because of a recurring brain tumor
Cameron was born in Pittsburgh during his father's second season in the league, grew up in the suburb of Monroeville, moved away to prep in Atlanta, and then chose Ohio State over his father's – and mother's – alma mater But last night he came back home.
"We feel this is one of those special players that I talked about the other day," said Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert "Not only from a football standpoint, but this kid has impeccable character, work habits, toughness, you name it It's hard to find a hole with this guy He is a special player He is a special person "
Heyward moved into the Ohio State lineup in the middle of his true freshman season and went on to start 46 games, with 37½ tackles for loss and 15 sacks
His best performance may have been his final one in the Sugar Bowl when Heyward recorded 6 tackles, with 3½ for loss, a sack, a pass break-up, and two other hits on Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett And Heyward did most of it with a torn UCL in his left elbow
Heyward had "Tommy John" surgery Jan 12 and said last night he'd be able to play in minicamp if it were held tomorrow
At his campus Pro Day workout, Heyward ran well in the 40 (4 92), but struggled in the 20-yard shuttle time (4 88) and 3-cone drill (7 66) His vertical jump was only 26 inches The Steelers believe his strength, durability and work ethic overcome those deficiencies
"There are a lot of reasons to like Cameron Heyward," said Mike Tomlin "He's got a four-year body of work, not a one or two-year body of work We are very familiar with this guy, a lot of carryover, very familiar schematically in terms of what we do and what he was able to do at Ohio State We are just extremely excited about him "
Smith, 35, is entering the final season of his contract
"More than anything it's just a reflection of our willingness to fortify ourselves in the line of scrimmage," Tomlin said "We got Maurkice Pouncey a year ago, and just doing a nice job of acquiring some talented, big men
"It looks like the stars aligned for us today," Tomlin added "We feel real fortunate I hope and I'm real positive that Cameron feels the same "
"I have always worked hard to be a first rounder and to be picked by the Pittsburgh Steelers," said Heyward "It is an unbelievable opportunity and I am really going to cherish it and I am going to work hard to show people that I deserve that spot "
As a child growing up in the area, Heyward "always loved the team … to be somewhere you want to be is an unbelievable feeling "