Most of the Steeler Nation was hoping for the name “Aaron Williams” to be called when the Steelers handed in their draft card at Radio City Music hall late Thursday evening. Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert had different ideas though, and seemingly all along they were targeting the defensive tackle from OSU, Cameron Heyward. The Steelers need to get younger in several areas, and the defensive line is one of them. The average age of the starting 3 is well over 30 and with the health of Aaron Smith a yearly concern, it was high time to address this position. That’s exactly what they’ve done in 2009 and now in 2011 with the addition of Heyward. Ziggy Hood is starting to come into his own, and Heyward could make an immediate impact in the upcoming NFL season. This choice allows the Steelers to have a very solid rotation on the line and gives them good depth, something they haven’t had in a long time with that group. I’m excited to see this kid get his chance and start making an impact. We’ll cover this and all the draft choices more indepth in the upcoming draft recap podcast of Blitzburgh Radio on May 2, 2011.
Cameron Heyward Conference Call
How are you?
Awesome. Unbelievable feeling.
How much of that is associated with you coming to Pittsburgh as opposed to coming to the NFL as a first rounder?
One of my goals has always been to be a first rounder. I have always worked hard to be a first rounder and to be picked by the Pittsburgh Steelers it is a 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.
Did you have a feeling of how much the Steelers liked you?
We have had previous meetings and I thought they went great. Coach Tomlin drove out to my pro day and Coach LeBeau came out as well. I’ve always loved the team. I am from there. My grandparents are from there. My mom is from there. The gut feeling is that I want to be in Pittsburgh and to be somewhere that you want to be is an unbelievable feeling.
Even though you knew it was a possibility, how excited were you especially with coming back to Pittsburgh where your dad is from?
Not having my father around through this process, it has been tough. But I know he is watching and I am going to strive everyday to make him proud of me and to live his legacy on.
How often do you make it back to Pittsburgh?
I make it back every year. I have family that lives right in Highland Park and I make it back at least two times a year. I know Pittsburgh pretty well. Going back to my old stomping grounds in going to be fun.
Were you born here?
Yes, sir. I was born right in the heart of Pittsburgh and I lived out in Monroeville.
Is your mom from Monroeville or is that just where you lived?
My mom is actually from Highland Park.
What hospital were you born in?
I’m not exactly sure, off of the top of my head. I would have to ask my mom on that one. But I definitely was born in the city.
How much family do you still have here?
I have my grandparents, my aunt and her husband. Her husband played for the Pitt Panthers a couple of years ago and I have a bunch of family still there and a chance to see them again will be totally fun.
Re: System you played in at Ohio State:
I think we try to adapt our defense to a Steeler brand type of ball because Coach LeBeau is a well renowned player at Ohio State. We try to adapt well and playing their type of ball, getting after the quarterback, making a lot of plays in the back field, being an attacking defense. That is the type of defense I am accustomed to.
Do you expect yourself to be a complete player?
I am going with the mindset that I want to be a complete player. I don’t want to be the guy that only comes out on certain downs. I feel as though if I work at my craft and continue to improve everyday then I can reach that goal.
Who was your uncle that played for Pitt?
Do you have all your gold pants?
How does it feel to come to a team and town that is defense first?
I love it. The defense, to be a part of this type of defense is one of a kind. You can’t emulate it in a lot of places. The town, they support their team. I’ve always had a Terrible Towel. I look forward to being a part of Steeler Nation.
What did you do tonight?
I was in Atlanta and I just celebrated with my family and friends. The chance to get to celebrate this moment was awesome. I just appreciate everyone that came over and was there for me.
Did you graduate early?
I graduate in June. This is my last quarter now. We are on the quarter system.
What’s your degree in?
What kind of player are the Steelers getting?
A team-first kind of player, very accountable and a guy that is constantly going to work hard and contribute as much as he can for his team.
How is the elbow?
Great. If minicamp started tomorrow I would be there.
What affect has the lockout had on you if at all?
Just the fact that it’s unknown, you never knew when it was going to end. That’s the only thing I could think about, when is football going to happen? The fact that it’s over is a relief and we can get back to football.
Coach Mike Tomlin and Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert
Kevin Colbert: First of all I’d like to thank everybody for sticking this out. I know it’s a long evening, but we feel it was very worthwhile for us to be able to stick this out and to be able to pick a kid like Cameron Heyward. We feel this is one of those special players that I talked about the other day, 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. Of course you are familiar with his father, the late, Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, the great Pitt Panther. This is a special moment for this organization, and we are really, really excited to have this kid joining.
Mike Tomlin: There are a lot of reasons to like Cameron Heyward. 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. He’s an impeccable young man, a really good football player. It’s going to be awesome to put him in the mix with some other big-body young people that we’ve been able to add in the recent years, Ziggy Hood, Maurkice Pouncey and now Cameron Heyward. I really feel good about adding to our lines of scrimmages with solid young people early in the draft.
Do you ever get serious to moving up or down in the draft?
KC: No, there was a couple calls, more curiosity. We made a couple curiosity calls and we had a few calls from people in front of us that maybe wanted to flush down a couple teams behind us that wanted to come up. The longer it went, the better we felt about our chances. Fortunately it worked out today. We got a guy we really coveted and we have all our picks remaining. I can’t tell you how happy we are about this.
Were you ever worried that he might be gone, and did you ever consider moving up?
KC: There was consideration, but every pick that comes off of guys that we wouldn’t be considering, our odds increased. You just have to weigh the odds and hope that it works out for you. Fortunately it did this time.
Re: Getting a feel for the character of a player:
MT: It’s a feel but it is also what they’ve done, what people say about them and of course their track record at the University. This guy is an A in that regard.
Re: Four years at Ohio State:
MT: It gives us a great deal of comfort from a predictability standpoint in that he is capable of showing what he has done there over an extended period of time. It’s not a one-year body of work. This guy has been a significant a core football player in that system since the time he stepped on campus. It creates a great deal of comfort when you are looking at a guy. He’s not only a mature young man, he is a mature player from that standpoint, relative to some other people that get drafted in the draft. He has about as much experience or playing experience that someone is going to have that you drafted.
What are his capabilities?
MT: I think he is capable of doing it all based on what we’ve seen on Ohio State tape. There’s no question he was an anchor-point for them in the run game. He also created splash plays for them via rushing the passer.
Re: Drafting Ohio State players because of their system-importance to player’s transition:
MT: It’s not a necessity. It creates a great deal of comfort when looking at someone, in terms of projecting what they might be capable of doing for you. It’s not weighted any differently from that standpoint, it’s just a nice level of comfort as you study and evaluate tape, and see some of the things they might be doing for you.
Re: Second defensive end in last three drafts being a reflection of present defensive end’s ages:
MT: More than anything it’s just a reflection of our willingness to fortify ourselves in the line of scrimmage. We got Maurkice Pouncey a year ago, and just doing a nice job of acquiring some talented, big men.
What’s advantage of having a first round pick not having to product immediately?
MT: We don’t over analyze that. If this young man comes in and is capable of playing and proves that, he’ll play. There is no plan in that regard. The guys that deserve the play time, are given play time. Maurkice Pouncey earned it a year ago. This guy will be given the opportunity to do the same.
How much does it help schematically when they do a lot of similar things?
MT: I don’t know that it’s going to help him. Of course, some of the verbage and so forth is different. I’m sure some of the minuet details, in terms of the execution and techniques. Coach Mitch is going to provide him with, maybe different. We’re not going to assume anything, it just makes for an easy watch, or an enjoyable watch as you watch tape.
Re: Education – has to wait for graduation?
KC: He already has his grades.
MT: He has graduated, so that quarter school rule does not apply to him.
Was Coach LeBeau campaigning for this?
MT: No, not an Ohio Stater.
Re: Pitching in the fall after Tommy John Surgery:
MT: We won’t need him to pitch.
KC: He had surgery. He actually injured the elbow during the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas, finished the game, and had surgery shortly thereafter. He was unable to work out at the combine. He worked out March 30th and 31st. Coach Tomlin and myself, and Coach LeBeau attended the work out, and he did very well. He cleared all the medical issues and he’ll be ready to go.
Re: Emotions and family background with Pittsburgh
KC: Coach Tomlin talked to him and Art (Rooney) talked to him. His mother’s family is from Highland Park. Of course, “Ironhead” (father, Craig Heyward) played for Pitt. There are a lot of ties and it was something we hoped could happen. You’ll have to ask him, but I’m pretty sure he was excited about the possibility of coming here. Again, it looks like the stars aligned for us today, and again we feel real fortunate. I hope and I’m real positive that Cameron (Heyward) feels the same.
Did any of you ever meet Iron Head in person? Did you know him before he passed away?
KC: I knew him when I was a young scout at that time. I had met him a few times, but didn’t really know him well. I think you’ll see some physical resemblance obviously, Cameron is a lot taller than Craig was. But, the personalities, there are some similarities there. Again, this is a special kid.
Transcript courtesy of Steelers.com