Steelers take Ironhead’s son in first round

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Craig “Ironhead” Heyward rushed for 1,791 yards in 1987 at Pitt and was fifth in the Heisman Trophy balloting. He was selected by the New Orleans Saints in the first round of the 1988 NFL Draft.

In a move to bolster an aging defensive line, the Steelers selected Ironhead’s son, Cameron Heyward, a 6-5, 300 pound defensive end from Ohio State with the 31st pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. None of the current starters are younger than 30 years old.

Heyward
COMING HOME—Pittsburgh Steelers first-round draft pick Cameron Heyward poses with a team jersey with coach Mike Tomlin, left, and team president Art Rooney II, right, during a news conference at the team’s headquarters on the Southside, April 29. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

“Don’t ever quit!” is the first piece of advice he was given by his daddy the minute that he set foot on a football field. Work hard, be patient and stick with it, and good things will happen. That kind of raw determination and work ethic enabled Heyward to be one of the best football players in the world.

The Heywards lived in Monroeville until “Ironhead” died at age 39 from problems related to brain cancer and Cameron and his mother moved to Atlanta.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Be careful what you wish for—‘cuz you just might get it. “It’s actually been around even longer than that Pussycat Dolls song, “When I Grow Up.”

“I was born in the heart of Pittsburgh and I lived out in Monroeville and I was praying that Pittsburgh would draft me,” said Heyward. “My mom went to Peabody High School and my grandparents still live in Highland Park. Going back to my old stomping grounds is going to be fun.”

Ohio State’s football coach Jim Tressel knew the Steelers we’re going to draft Heyward eight months ago, but he never told anybody.

“Coach Tomlin drove out to my pro day. I’ve always loved the team,” said Heyward. “The gut feeling is that I want to be in Pittsburgh and to be somewhere that you want to be is an unbelievable feeling.”

Ohio State has a history of sending defensive line bums to the Steelers…Rodney Bailey, Doug Worthington and Thaddeus Gibson. Cameron Heyward will break that cycle.

Meanwhile, All-Pro franchise quarterback “Big” Ben Roethisberger should prepare his body for another 50 sack season. The Steelers entered the draft needing help on an offensive line that has allowed more than 150 quarterback sacks the last three seasons.

Second round pick Marcus Gilbert, who is 6-feet-6, and 330 pounds, played left tackle at Florida. But he is too slow to play tackle in the NFL and too weak and slow to play guard. Gilbert has narrow shoulders, collapsing lats and a pot belly. Maybe, the Steelers should give him a yellow game day security jacket and help him get on with his life’s work as a secret service agent.

“My dad was the secret service agent for President Clinton, President Bush and President Obama,” said Gilbert. “I thought hard about going into the Secret Service, but football is something I always wanted to do.”

There are several reasons why the Steelers didn’t win the Super Bowl. Perhaps the most glaring of their flaws was the lack of playmakers in the secondary. Starting cornerback William Gay has been a bust the last two years and doesn’t cover or tackle well. Pittsburgh may have found a replacement for Gay when they selected 6 foot, 185 pound Curtis Brown of Texas in the third round. Brown is a speedster with 4.4 speed in the 40 and ran the 100 in 10.6 in high school.

Uncle Sam thought he had a second lieutenant before the Steelers decided to take on a project. Fourth round pick Cortez Allen, of Citadel Military College, is a 6-2, 200 pound cornerback and runs the 40 in 4.55. Allen is a very raw prospect. He didn’t play football until his senior year in high school and was only a two year starter at Citadel.

Just as a preface, fifth round pick Chris Carter, a linebacker from Fresno State is his own man and isn’t striving to be James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, or anyone else—-just the best Chris Carter he can possibly be. But you can’t ignore the fact that there are some striking similarities between him and Harrison. Carter (6-1, 250) has only competed in college, so he has not yet enjoyed the stunning success of Harrison, winning and losing Super Bowl’s and earning several Pro Bowl honors. I’m not suggesting for a moment that he is destined to. However, I think when you look at all the things these two steel warriors have in common, it’s plain to see that they are cut from the same cloth.

“I have been watching James Harrison all the time on NFL Network,” said Carter.

“He plays with passion. To be a player of that caliber is something I dream about.”

Although the selection of Carter is intriguing, Colbert and the Steelers again had a brain freeze by adding an outside linebacker. The Steelers have the best two outside linebackers in football in Harrison and Woodley both in the prime of their careers and Jason “All” Worilds and Stevenson Sylvester were added to the roster last year. Carter figures to be nothing more than a cheerleader in 2011.

Keith Williams, who is 6-4, 320 pounds, played offensive guard at Nebraska. The sixth round draft choice will be fighting for a roster spot.

Few college football players have impressed the Steelers so much with their dedication to continuing education in all matters related to training and nutrition as Texas Tech running back Baron Batch, their seventh round pick. Mewelde Moore is a free agent, so the versatile Batch (5-10, 200) will get every opportunity to earn the third down back position. Isaac Redman, former Bowie State star, emerged at the end of last season as the team’s best option in short yardage.

The draft is a sport of opinion, and opinions are subjective. Also, you get a different perspective when you’re part of the process. And even then, many so-called experts see things differently based on their own idea of what makes up the ideal football player.

But the consensus outside the Steelers organization that their first round draft choice needed to be a defensive cornerback. Several teams, including the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl, were able to cut up the Steelers secondary like a knife through hot butter. William Gay, Bryant McFadden, Anthony Madison and Keenan Lewis proved that they cannot consistently stand on an island and handle their business and Pittsburgh didn’t address a replacement in rounds one or two. Is the general manager of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kevin Colbert or Cam Bonifay?

I give the Steelers draft a failing grade. Colbert and his Mickey Mouse scouting department seem to be Gomer Pyle-ing there way through the draft!

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