There’s one thing the Steelers do extremely well, sack the quarterback. In 2021, they led the NFL with 55 sacks, highlighted by 22.5 for Defensive Player of the Year, T.J. Watt.

Watt wasn’t the only Steeler driving signal callers to the ground. Cameron Heyward, who’s played his entire career with the Steelers, recorded 10.0 sacks, giving him two double-digit sack campaigns in the last five seasons.

Pro Football Focus compiled a list of the top 50 players in the league, and Heyward was ranked 19th heading into the 2022 season.

PFF’s Sam Monson wrote the following:

“Playing on the interior of the defensive line in today’s NFL leads to the unwinnable comparisons to Aaron Donald but Heyward is consistently in the battle for the best non-Donald performances in the league. Last season, he was the only other interior player who posted a 90.0-plus grade, and he notched 61 pressures as he continues to play his best football deep into his career. Heyward has recorded at least 60 pressures for three straight seasons.”

After being taken in the first round by the Steelers in 2011, Heyward only recorded 7.5 sacks in his first three seasons before equaling that in 2014 alone. After 10.0 combined sacks over the next two seasons, Heyward then set a career-high with 12.0 in 2017.

That season was the beginning of a pretty dominant stretch for Heyward. He’s made five consecutive Pro Bowls and received All-Pro honors on four occasions.

When it comes to defensive tackles in the NFL, Aaron Donald of the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams stands above all. However, when Heyward was asked if Donald was in a class of his own, he had some reservations.

“It pisses me off, hands down”, said Heyward. “I think I’m one of, if not the most complete player at my position. I know Aaron is a really talented guy, but don’t shy away and say ‘Oh, It’s Aaron Donald and everybody else’. S**t, It’s Cam, and Aaron, and everbody else.”

Either way, an interior defender being named a top-20 player at 33-years-old is quite the accomplishment and shows exactly why Heyward had every right to be pissed off about the perception of his place among his peers; specifically, Donald.

You can check out the full PFF column, here.

Feature image via Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports