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Steelers Cam Heyward Fires Back on ‘Wrong’ ESPN DT Rankings

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Steelers DL Cam Heyward

On the debut of his podcast Not Just Football, Cam Heyward reiterated his displeasure with ESPN’s survey rankings of the top defensive tackles in the NFL. Heyward inexplicably came in at No. 5 — behind DeForest Buckner, Chris Jones, Jeffery Simmons and Aaron Donald.

“Jeremy Fowler, I’ve loved talking to you over the years, but damn, this is wrong,” Heyward said. “I just came off a heck of a year and I went back? That seems very confusing to me. AD’s first. Jeffery Simmons is second. He was out of the top 10 last year. Chris Jones is third, he was second last year. DeForest Buckner was three last year, and then I’m five.”

Heyward earned first-team All-Pro honors in 2021 — recording 10 sacks, 89 tackles and 15 tackles for loss. Heyward has also made five straight Pro Bowls and was named first-team All-Pro three times since 2017. He was also second-team All-Pro in 2020.

“I look at this and they say look at his numbers and watch him, there’s no decline at all. If there’s no decline at all, how the hell did I drop?” Heyward said.

Heyward’s co-host, Hayden Walsh, said age has to be the reason for Heyward dropping in the rankings.

“OK, to your point, if it’s age, why didn’t AD drop? Heyward responded. “For me personally, I think I’m at the top of my game and I’m a complete player. And that’s not a slight on everybody else. But when I step on that field, I feel like I’m the top guy in my position. It’s me and AD and everybody else.”

Heyward, who is 33 years old and heading into his 12th season with the Steelers, said on Mina Kimes’ podcast in May that he wants to play at least five more years. Heyward has shown no signs of slowing down, so that goal certainly seems attainable. Also, if he stays on the trajectory that he’s been on, he could solidify a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday.

Heyward thinks Donald is 1A, but he considers himself 1A, as well. While Donald has three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards to Heyward’s zero, it’s hard to argue that Heyward hasn’t been at least the second-best defensive tackle in the NFL over the last five years. Donald’s numbers are astronomical, but Heyward has been more consistent than Jones and Buckner. Simmons is entering just his fourth year, but has displayed he’ll be one of the league’s best for the years to come.

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