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NFL Historian Thinks Cam Heyward Deserves a Gold Jacket

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Pittsburgh Steelers Cam Heyward

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward is a three-time first-team All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler. He’s recorded 80.5 career sacks, which is tied for second on the franchise’s all-time list. Having that many sacks as a defensive tackle speaks volumes. He also was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2023.

Heyward’s accolades certainly make him Hall of Fame worthy. Some voters probably don’t view him as a slam dunk, but NFL historian John Turney thinks he’s done enough to warrant a Gold Jacket.

Turney believes Heyward’s accomplishments match up with other Hall of Fame defensive linemen.

“As it is, his three All-Pros are similar to others who played his position — a 3-4 defensive end in a base defense and a defensive tackle in passing downs. Howie Long did that. So did Richard Seymour. Both were All-Pro three times, with Long going to eight Pro Bowls and Seymour seven,” Turney wrote.

“Lee Roy Selmon, a pure 3-4 end who didn’t ‘sink’ to defensive tackle, was also a three-time All-Pro. Two guys who played multiple positions — Dan Hampton and Joe Klecko — could also be considered for comparison, with Hampton a four-time All-Pro and Klecko chosen twice.”

Steelers Cam Heyward

Pittsburgh Steelers’ Cameron Heyward, the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winner speaks during the NFL Honors award show ahead of the Super Bowl 58 football game Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, in Las Vegas. The San Francisco 49ers face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 58 on Sunday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

On the flip side, Cam Heyward could be knocked for his lack of playoff success. He’s only been a part of one playoff win. He also wasn’t voted to the 2010s All-Decade Team. Heyward was kind of a late bloomer.

“He wasn’t voted to the 2010s’ all-decade team and won’t make the 2020s’ squad. But there’s a catch: Heyward is someone who would benefit from a mid-all-decade team, if there were such a thing — one that spanned from 2015-2024. He’d almost certainly be chosen to it,” Turney wrote.

Turney makes valid points in his argument as to why Heyward is already a Hall of Famer, especially with the four Gold Jacket players he compared him to.

“So what does all this mean for his Hall-of-Fame chances? Like others asked to do similar things — namely, play both the pass and the run — Heyward should be seen through the same lens as Hall-of-Famers Howie Long, Richard Seymour, Dan Hampton and Joe Klecko,” Turney wrote. “They were versatile, almost positionless, defensive linemen who didn’t produce a slew of sacks, dominated the middle and were enshrined.”

Cam Heyward, 35, wants to play for at least three more years, so he still has the potential to bolster his accolades. It’s not a must, but playoff wins and a Super Bowl title would certainly increase his Hall of Fame odds. He might’ve already accomplished enough to get in, but a Super Bowl title would make him a shoo-in to Canton.

Heyward only having one playoff win, no Super Bowls, and not being a part of the 2010s All-Decade Team is his biggest hurdle to not being a Hall of Famer.

Long, Seymour and Hampton all won at least one Super Bowl. Seymour won three with New England. All three were also named to an All-Decade Team. Klecko didn’t have much playoff success with the New York Jets and wasn’t named to the 1980s All-Decade Team, but he won NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1981. He led the NFL that season with a whopping 20.5 sacks.