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Captain Cam Heyward Drops Truth Bomb on Steelers Locker Room: ‘Guys Learn, or You’ve Gotta Change Who’s in There’

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Steelers Cam Heyward

PITTSBURGH — Several members of the Pittsburgh Steelers said that the team did not take its Week 13 opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, seriously enough leading into Sunday’s 24-10 Arizona victory at Acrisure Stadium.

The Cardinals had entered that contest with a 2-10 record and were one of the worst teams in the league. The Steelers didn’t even give them a close game.

Four days later, the New England Patriots marched into Acrisure Stadium with the same 2-10 record. And did basically the same thing. The Patriots jumped out to a 21-3 lead, capitalizing on Steelers mistakes and following basically the same blueprint the Cardinals had laid down from earlier in the week.

This time, the Steelers at least made a game of it, but the end result was the same. Another loss to an NFL bottom-feeder, and a team whose general manger would probably rather they had lost, the better to secure position to draft Caleb Willams on Drake Maybe next spring.

The Steelers are not looking for a draft pick. They entered the week 7-4, with a real chance at winning the AFC North and what seemed to be an assured lock on a playoff spot.

 Now 7-6, what seemed to be a lock will be an uphill climb. The Steelers have four games remaining. Three are on the road, at a surging Indianapolis Colts team that passed them in the playoff picture with the Steelers’ loss on Thursday night, a daunting West Coast trip to face the Seattle Seahawks, and a season-ending trip to the division-leading Baltimore Ravens. Sandwiched in between is a home date against the Cincinnati Bengals, who no longer look like pushovers without Joe Burrow.

If the Steelers play like they did the last two games going forward, they won’t win another. The lack of availability of personnel that certainly played into those performances isn’t going to get better. Starting quarterback Kenny Pickett watched the game from a booth, which is ankle in a boot and scooting around on a cart. 

Inside linebacker Elandon Roberts might get closer to full healthy with nine days off between games, but outside linebacker Alex Highsmith’s status going forward is uncertain after he suffered a neck injury

The calvary is not coming.

So who can the Steelers rescue what is rapidly becoming a disaster of a season? Captain Cam Heyward took the microphone after the game to address that issue.

For him, it starts with correcting the mistakes that the team made on the field over the last two games.

“When you lose, people keep trying to do the same thing,” he said. “Either we learn from our mistakes, or they’re going to continue to keep biting us in the butt. …

“Either guys learn, or you’ve gotta change who’s in there, myself included. If I can’t execute, then you’ve gotta take me out. That’s just the way the group rolls. That’s the way we’ve always done it. I think we have the capable men of doing that.”

The frustration of the back-to-back winnable losses has the potential to tear the team apart, and Heyward said honest self-evaluation is the key to keep that from happening.

“I think you keep guys together by being accountable; not running from the mistakes,” he said. “We’ll have meetings (Friday). I’m not someone who is going to shy away from what’s going on. I know a lot of our guys are going to think the same way. When we’re in meetings, there’s a standard. There’s a level of play that needs to be accustomed to everybody. When we fall short, everybody is accountable for it. Nothing more that than.”

Of course, that’s the same process that the Steelers would have played out after losing to the Cardinals, right? At some point, something has to change. Heyward pushed back about the idea that the thing that needs to change is the team’s approach or mentality between games. He thinks the team practice and prepared properly to beat the Patriots. But when the rubber met the road on Thursday night, not enough people got the job done.

“I think it’s execution,” he said. “There’s plays to be made, and when we don’t make the plays, everybody’s got to own up to it. You can call that whatever you want, but to me, when you don’t make the play, you don’t make the play. 

“That’s not overlooking somebody. In the NFL, you could plan an 0-15 team, and that team can dust you if you’re not careful. Everybody’s got professionals and everybody prepares. But I think the execution, and especially in this game. The execution has to go up. … You’ve just got to pick up the level of execution. You can’t have those mistakes going forward.”

So what gives Heyward the confidence that such a change in outcomes is possible, now with a more extended break in between games than this week’s rush job?

“We’ve got some time to think about it, but we’ve got football after that,” he said. “You can’t put a mask over this. This is two ugly games that we have to be accountable for. …

“I’m confident, but the work has to be done. I can sit up here and be mad and have an opinion. But the work, and the film work, especially has to be looked at and we’ve all got to grow because of it.”

Heyward has been a Steelers team captain for nine years. He’s and kicker Chris Boswell are the lone members of the team that have won a playoff game as a member of the franchise. 

The task of keeping the team together, of continuing to work toward and fight toward that outcome that once seemed assured, and now seems so far away, will fall largely to him and the other leaders. It might be his largest test in that role. We’ll see if the they can make it happen.

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