Home Pittsburgh Sports Steelers Steelers select Ohio State’s Heyward with top pick

Steelers select Ohio State’s Heyward with top pick

With the 31st pick in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected DE Cameron Heyward out of Ohio State. At 6’5″ and 290 lbs, Heyward is an ideal fit as a defensive end in the Steelers 3-4 defense. Cameron is the son of the late Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, former Pitt and NFL running back.

After all the speculation on whether the Steelers would trade up for Mike Pouncey or trade down out of the first round entirely, Pittsburgh stayed put at the 31st selection of the 2011 draft and ended up with the player they wanted all along: Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward.

Cameron, the son of former Pitt and NFL running back Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, joins a team that needed an injection of youth along the defensive line. He becomes the second defensive end drafted by the Steelers in the first round in the last three seasons- the other being 2008 first-rounder Ziggy Hood.

In Monday’s press conference, Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert declared that there were “about twenty special players” coming out of the draft. Late Thursday night, he opined that Heyward was one of those twenty, also adding that Cameron was equally special as a person. “This kid has impeccable character, work-ethic, toughness… you name it,” offered Colbert.

While Tomlin certainly liked the character of his newest first-rounder, he also pointed out the football traits that made Heyward stand out among a sea of prospects, noting his four years of action at Ohio State, a school that plays a true 3-4 defense with similar characteristics to that of the Pittsburgh version. Pittsburgh’s defensive attitude and the passion of the town itself also appeals to their newest draftee.

“I love it,” exclaimed Heyward. “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.”

As if he needed any more motivation, he gains strength from a famous face most Pittsburgh sports fans would be familiar with, his late father, Craig Heyward, who starred for the University of Pittsburgh in the mid-eighties. The monstrous running back, nicknamed “Ironhead” during his professional career, passed away in 2006 after a bout with cancer.

“Not having my father around through this process… it’s been tough,” offered Heyward with emotion in his voice. “But I know he’s watching and I’m going to strive every day to make him proud of me and live his legacy on.”

Despite a wealth of rumors that the Steelers were going to trade the 31st pick one way or the other, Colbert said there were no real discussions on moving the pick, though he did place and field what he referred to as “curiosity calls” with other general managers. Once Mike Pouncey was gobbled up by Miami with the 15th pick, there was no real threat of Pittsburgh trading up and once the team realized Heyward would be available at thirty-one, there was no chance they’d trade down.

In Cameron’s mind, it was Pittsburgh or bust.

“The gut feeling is: I want to be in Pittsburgh,” said Heyward. “To be somewhere you want to be… it’s an unbelievable feeling.”

1. Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
2. Marcus Gilbert, OT, Florida
3. Curtis Brown, CB, Texas

Kenneth Torgent is the Steelers beat writer for the Pittsburgh Sports Report. Follow him on twitter at @ktorgent.

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