“He’s A Unicorn:” Teryl Austin On Cam Heyward’s Longevity

“He’s A Unicorn:” Teryl Austin On Cam Heyward’s Longevity

Cameron Heyward is 33 years old and still a dominant force in the NFL. Just last week, Heyward turned in a stellar performance against the Las Vegas Raiders that resulted in seven tackles, two sacks and a pass deflection, earning him his third career Defensive Player of the Week award and first since year 2017.

Today, in his weekly Steelers transcribed press conference, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was asked what Heyward does to play at this level at the age of 33 in the NFL.

He’s a unicorn,” Austin said. “I say this all the time. But I think what allows him to do that is that he keeps himself in great shape. Consumption is hard to explain. It really is. Because the guy just seems to play at a high level all the time. But I think a lot of it is conditioning, I think a lot of it is definitely that he has a great will, a great desire to be a great player. So I think you take into account all those things and the fact that he’s really consistent. I mean, it’s amazing, the amount of shows he plays, all the things you said. You don’t see that very often. But I’ve just got to give it to him and his mental makeup, his physicality, the way he keeps himself in great shape is why he’s able to do what he does.”

It obviously takes a lot of training and taking care of the body to age like Heyward has, especially at the position he plays. Heyward doesn’t have the luxury of a quarterback, wide receiver or running back where they don’t have to face contact on every single play. Heyward does as he collides with the offensive lineman on every single snap.

However, Heyward keeps his training relatively private, unlike many NFL players. For example, Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson often posts photos or videos of himself working out in the offseason. Heyward rarely does. There’s no right or wrong way to work out or post, it’s more because Heyward doesn’t often post himself working out in the less talked about offseason. However, now Austin highlighted that Heyward is one of the hardest workers and coaches on the team, and that makes sense given his production. Even at 33 years old, he has already recorded 8.5 sacks, 18 QB hits, 62 tackles, three passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Incredible stuff for the Steelers defensive captain.

Another reason why Heyward is playing so well this late in his career may be because he didn’t break into the starting lineup quickly. Playing behind guys like Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel, Heyward didn’t start a game in his first two NFL seasons. And in 2012, the first year Pro Football Reference has snap counts, Heyward collected just 27% of the defensive snaps per game.

When you combine his limited game action that helped limit early wear and tear on his body in his first two seasons, plus his incredible work ethic and conditioning that Austin mentioned today, it makes sense why Heyward has been able to play so well so late in his career. Hopefully the future Steelers Hall of Famer will have a few more elite seasons and earn a much-deserved Super Bowl ring in the Steel City.

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