Thanksgiving 2021 has arrived so it’s time to award this year’s Steel Curtain Risings Steelers Thanksgiving Honors. To understand our what crystalized our choice, let’s return to the tail, tail end of the Steelers tie against the Lions.
On 3rd and goal with 20 seconds remaining all that separated the Detroit Lions from a touchdown going into half time was 8 yards. Here’s the Pro Football Reference stat line for what happened next:
- D’Andre Swift up the middle for 6 yards (tackle by Cam Heyward)
A curious choice for a stat to highlight, especially given Cam Heyward’s twin sacks in 3rd down in the 4th quarter and then again in overtime? Maybe. Not.
It wasn’t the tackle that Heyward made, although his save a touchdown and force a field goal, it was the way that Cam Heyward made the tackle. He wrapped Swift at the 2-yard line and tossed him back like a rag doll a good 3 or 4 yards.
Those kinds of plays are all about attitude. In a goal line situation is the defense’s way of channeling their inner Gandalf the Grey saying, “You SHALL Not Pass!” Those are the kind of plays that define a good defense, and it is with that style an attitude that Cameron Heyward has defined himself as a Pittsburgh Steeler.
- Cameron Heyward of course won Steelers Thanksgiving Honors in 2013, his first year as a starter.
Normally, we’d look to bestow the award on someone new. But Cam Heyward’s play in 2021 has been nothing short of phenomenal.
The Steelers defensive line is hurting. Stephon Tuitt has yet to play a game or even take a snap on practice. Tyson Alualu was lost, likely for the season, in week 2. Cameron Heyward is responding like any true champion: He’s stepping it up.
He already has 4.5 sacks on the season, one more than his 2020 total. He’s dropped 7 players for losses, equaling his 2020 total. He’s hit quarterbacks 10 times. His batted down 7 balls – doubling his 2020 total. And he’s forced and recovered a fumble and has an interception to his credit.
- All with 7 games to go.
But like with his tackle of D’Andre Swift, it isn’t what he’s doing, is the way he’s doing it and when he’s doing it.
- Throughout this season of barn burners, Cameron Heyward is consistently making big plays at big moments.
Case in point: This article was drafted on Sunday, before the Chargers game. In that contest Cam Heyward “only” had two tackles and one pass defensed. What those numbers don’t show is that he ran down Justin Herbert on a 36 yard run and kept him out of the end zone. Then, 5 defensive plays later he batted away a pass, which Cam Sutton picked off, setting up Ben Roethlisberger’s tying touchdown to Pat Freiermuth.
You think Art Rooney II knew what he was doing at the tail end of training camp in 2020 when he essentially told Omar Khan and Kevin Colbert to get Cam Heyward signed, damn the salary cap consequences?
You only need to register a pulse to know that Cameron Heyward has been a good player since the Steelers drafted him. But during 2021 he’s taken it a step further.
- During 2021 Cam Heyward has once again proven he belongs in that elite group of excellent players.
And for that, for his leadership in the locker room and in the community of Pittsburgh, Cameron Heyward wins Steelers 2021 Thanksgiving Honors.
Steelers Thanksgiving Honors Explained
Steelers Thanksgiving honors is a tradition that began here on Steel Curtain Rising in 2009. The idea was to pick a player or member of the Steelers organization who gave Steelers fans reason to give thanks.
Football, while important to all of us isn’t and shouldn’t be our top priorities – that should be family and friends. So the hope here is that everyone reading this has reason to give thanks for the people in their lives.
Happy Thanksgiving Steelers Nation.