Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Cam Heyward was involved with the NFL’s schedule release last night and spoke about the team’s first season since 2003 without Ben Roethlisberger as quarterback. The future Hall of Famer retired this past season after an 18-year career spent entirely with the Steelers, the longest career spent with one team by a player in NFL history. He’s a six-time Pro Bowler (2007, 2011, 2014–17), two-time Super Bowl champion and led the league in passing yards twice in his career (2014, 2018).
On top of all that, Roethlisberger was known for dominating the AFC North division, specifically the two teams from his home state of Ohio in the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals. Roethliberger went 71-24-1 in his career against AFC North teams with records of 26-3-1 (Browns) and 26-10 (Bengals) against his home state teams.
“It’s gonna be different,” said Heyward on not having Roethlisberger for the season’s opener in Cincinnati. “Ben’s won us some games there before. It’s been a slugfest. Obviously we got our work cut out.”
With Roethlisberger gone, the team is set to have their first quarterback competition since he was drafted in 2004 and competed with Tommy Maddox for the starting job. The Steelers brought in free agent Mitch Trubisky, a former No. 2 overall pick, and drafted Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett with the No. 20 overall pick to compete with Roethlisberger’s longtime back-up Mason Rudolph for the starting job. The team also drafted Chris Oladokun out of South Dakota State in the seventh-round, but he is not expected to compete for the starting job in training camp.
As for what Heyward can do to help the team find their next quarterback, he can help them by playing his best defense against them in training camp.
“I’m gonna help them,” said Heyward with a big grin. “One way or another, I’m gonna help them. They might not like how I help them. But they are going to find out. They go against our defense every single day and they’re gonna find out if they’re ready to play in the big leagues.”
The Steelers will need to play their best defense in the regular season as they continue to adjust to a defensive-focused team in the absence of Roethlisberger. The Steelers historical have been known for their defense, dating back to the ‘Steel Curtain’ days of the 1970s. Those facts aren’t lost on Heyward.
“Of course it does,” said Heyward. “But I think we’re going to embrace that. Pittsburgh has always been a team that is about the defense. Obviously we’ve had a good offense in the past, but the onus is on the defense. We accept that. We look forward to it. And if our quarterback can just get us three points I feel like we got a chance.”
The Steelers start their season on September 1st when they play the Bengals at Cincinatti.