PITTSBURGH — The cold tub at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side will be a popular destination for Pittsburgh Steelers players this week after the team’s marathon overtime win over the Cincinnati Bengals that saw the defense play 100 snaps. Rookie tight end Connor Heyward is probably not partaking.
The team’s sixth-round draft pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Heyward is the No. 3 tight end, which is not exactly a role that usually gets a ton of work, but it usually gets more than it did when Heyward made his NFL debut on Sunday: He played one snap of offense.
It wasn’t even a particularly memorable one, as Heyward helped block a running play that didn’t go very far. He’s watched his one rep of offense more than once, but he’s not necessarily obsessing over his performance. It would be hard to, since he didn’t do much.
“I watched it with the team and I had watched the whole game before, because (tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts) told us to watch it,” Heyward said Wednesday. “As a young guy, you’ve just got to make the most of your opportunities. It was a counter play. I went out there and did my job. Hopefully, that makes someone want to put me out there. It wasn’t like I did anything great. I wasn’t really involved in that play. But I did the right thing.”
With Pat Freiermuth and Zach Gentry entrenched ahead of him, offensive snaps are probably going to be few and far between for Heyward this season, but he’s taking advantage of the time he’s getting on the field in another area: special teams.
Heyward tied four other Steelers players for the team lead with 22 special teams snaps, and he’s pouring his unused energy from lack of participation on offense into that phase of the game.
“I’ve never really used to be on the sideline, so when I’m out there on special teams, I treat it like I’m on offense,” Heyward said. “If I show I can do that, hopefully it opens up other opportunities.”
Heyward’s first NFL statistic? An assisted tackle, along with Miles Boykin on a first-quarter punt coverage. That’s probably not the stat a tight end and former running back was looking for, but he’s not complaining as he tries to earn a role in the NFL.
“Just go out there and have fun,” he said of his mindset. “If you get one snap, make the most of it. If you get 20, 30 make the most of it.”