Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward had a big Sunday night, picking up a sack and three tackles in his team’s 20-15 win over the Detroit Lions. At 6-2, the Steelers are tied for the best record in the AFC and are being led by the defense, who held the Lions out of the end zone and had three separate goal line stands. Heyward joined The Jim Rome Show Monday on CBS Sports Radio, and spoke with pride about his unit’s performance.
“I think it came down to heart, hustle, and just executing better,” Heyward said.
The seventh-year veteran knew that kind of effort would be needed to beat a talented offense led by Matthew Stafford.
“Our backs were against the wall. They moved the ball,” Heyward admitted. “Especially with Stafford, he can throw all over the place, but I thought once the field got condensed, we really tightened down and made some stands.”
One of those stands turned the game. With the Lions trailing by just a single point in the third quarter, Detroit head coach Jim Caldwell chose to go for it on fourth down from the Steelers 1-yard line, but Stafford was sacked on the play. Heyward talked about the confidence that play gave his defense.
“You better take that three. Or we’re going to give a chance for our offense to go down and score,” Heyward said. “I think it’s just a big momentum shift because if you get four plays and you get stopped and it’s multiple times, that’s not going to give you a winning element.”
That stop ended up flipping the game. Three plays later, rookie Juju Smith-Schuster went 97 yards for a long touchdown catch and run, part of a career day against the Lions. It hasn’t taken long for him to make a positive impression.
“I just think the sky’s the limit with him,” Heyward said. “For all everybody talks about, that he’s a bigger wide receiver and he’s not going to be able to break away, and then he breaks off something like that? You are seeing this kid grow up, the stage is not too big for him. You still got a guy like AB (Antonio Brown), so this offense is going to keep getting better, and he’s going to keep getting better. I’m just excited to see where this offense continues to grow.”
Smith-Schuster made plenty of noise last week on social media, when a series of tweets helped get his missing bike returned. But instead of it being a distraction, the second rounder out of USC has done more than just draw attention for his Twitter game, he’s brought energy to the locker room.
“It’s not anything that’s disruptive, it’s not anything that holds the team back. It’s just pure joy and he’s having fun with this game,” Heyward said. “I know it’s a grown man’s league. But when you got a kid who is young like that, that brings energy, you just want to keep him involved because it’s going to rub off on other guys and you saw that on Sunday.”