On the Steelers: Heyward provides glimpse of future
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In two significant moments in the fourth quarter Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, rookie defensive end Cam Heyward ended up in the same place as he did on several feisty days in training camp at Saint Vincent College -- in the backfield.
And, just like those days in Latrobe, the Titans didn't like it, either.
Heyward, the Steelers' No. 1 draft choice, had his first NFL sack and forced fumble on a third-down play in the 38-17 victory at Heinz Field.
Three plays later, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was penalized for intentional grounding when he was about to be sacked again by Heyward..
The Steelers (3-2) are seeing more of Heyward, who is getting more playing time because of injuries on their defensive line to end Aaron Smith and nose tackle Casey Hampton -- neither of whom will play for the second game in a row Sunday when the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4) play at Heinz Field.
• Game: Steelers vs. Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m.
• Where: Heinz Field
• TV: KDKA.
And they like what they are seeing.
"He's making good progress," said defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "He's always had real good pass-rush ability and he showed up in the game Sunday with good pass rushes. He's learning the package very well. We're very hopeful he'll develop along the lines of Ziggy [Hood] and contribute as the season goes along."
The Steelers saw a lot of that in training camp when Heyward often angered his own offensive linemen with his relentless pass-rush ability. On back-to-back days, he got into fights with a couple veteran tackles because he never stopped trying to collapse the pocket.
"You saw why those guys were upset," said Lawrence Timmons, who will start at outside linebacker for the second game in a row for injured James Harrison (orbital facture). "They ended up in their own backfield."
That's the way Heyward plays, and the Steelers saw another example of that against the Titans when he just pushed his way into their backfield to sack Hasselbeck.
The plays were big hits in the film room for defensive linemen during the week. And Heyward, for one, would like to see more of them.
"They're saying they're great plays, but I have to be consistent," Heyward said. "It can't just be one game. Now, I have to go from here and prove it's not just a blip on a screen. I have to prove I can do this week in and week out."
The Steelers think he can.
Heyward is being brought along at least at the same pace as Hood when he was the team's No. 1 draft choice in 2009 -- and likely more so.
LeBeau always has made it a point to get at least a few snaps each game for players he knows eventually will be contributors, if not starters, on the defense.
He did it with Troy Polamalu when he was a rookie in '03; Timmons and Hood, too.
Heyward, of course, is no exception.
"We want them to be a part of the defense and get them in the game," LeBeau said. "Cam's got a great work ethic. I think the future is going to be onward and upward for him."
For now, Heyward is glad the coaches are noticing
"I just think I got to make the most out of my plays and make sure they see that I'm working," Heyward said.
One week after becoming the Steelers' first 100-yard rusher in 12 games, Jonathan Dwyer will go back to being an emergency back against the Jaguars.
Rashard Mendenhall will start after dressing but not playing against the Titans because of a hamstring injury. And Isaac Redman will be the No. 2 back again after starting against the Titans.
Mewelde Moore will miss his second game in a row with a high ankle sprain, but he has done some light running and is expected to play next week in Arizona.
Meantime, the offensive line will continue its shuffling.
Rookie right tackle Marcus Gilbert (left shoulder) will not play, meaning the Steelers will keep intact their streak of starting a different combination of offensive linemen in each game this season.
He will be replaced by Jonathan Scott.
Gilbert, though, is expected to return against the Cardinals and will go back in the starting lineup when he does.
Left guard Chris Kemoeatu (knee) will miss his second game in a row and may not return until Oct. 30 against New England.
Doug Legursky will replace him.
When Kemoeatu returns, Ramon Foster will remain the right guard, barring a setback, because the coaches think he has played very well.
First Published October 15, 2011 12:00 am