Halfway through the NFL season, fans are still working to evaluate the field. But Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward has a message for those who have deemed the Steelers as “fraudulent.
The critique seems to be that head coach Mike Tomlin’s ability to lead his team to a 6-3 record is a fluke that won’t withstand the playoffs. That perspective could potentially be supported by Pittsburgh’s offense, which is ranked 28th in the league. Through the first nine games of the season, they had a minus-26 point differential.
On his “Not Just Football” podcast, Heyward fired back:
“Who are they judging?” Heyward said. “They’re not in this. Smoke and mirrors? Screw you. We worked too hard for this. These guys dedicate their lives. We try to be a good defense. Smoke and mirrors, I think that’s a cloud of smoke.”
His defense began with a response to Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, who compared his team to the Steelers after a 120-101 loss to the Orlando Magic earlier this month.
We’re like the Pittsburgh Steelers right now,” James said. “The Pittsburgh Steelers, right now, have not out-gained or out-scored any of their opponents in this season right now and yet they’ve got a winning record.”
The NBA star was attempting to cite Elias Sports Bureau, which said the Steelers’ 20-16 win over the Tennessee Titans marked just the 34th time in the NFL’s history that a team was out-gained in each of the first eight weeks — the first time that one of those teams has had a winning record.
“I love LeBron but man, stay away from football, my guy,” Heyward said. “6-3 is 6-3.”
Heyward, a six-time Pro Bowler, also refuted the idea that the Steelers are cranking out ugly wins.
“What is pretty? For me personally, ‘pretty’ is overrated,” he said. “People say ‘pretty’ is scoring a lot of points, right? Isn’t ‘pretty’ a defense dominating and making sure we can make the right plays at the right time? And your offense makes plays accordingly? I hate that we’ve gotten to a point where, ‘Oh, we’re not blowing out the teams, so we’re gonna dice these people up and not agree with how they’re winning.’ It doesn’t matter. You play football to win the game. Nothing else. Win the game. Get off the field. Keep it moving.”
He’s not the only Steeler to address the topic. Star linebacker T.J. Watt said people are focused on things that don’t matter in the long run.
“Nobody is going to remember in 10 years what the scores were. It is all about wins and losses,” T.J. Watt said. “Each and every week, we are just trying to get the job done. It is not saying that we aren’t trying to get style points, but we understand that there is so much good football left in the tank for us. We aren’t trying to peak right now but we are continually trying to trend in the right direction.”
It seems that the path to more wins will be a little easier for the Steelers, as the team is set to compete against backup quarterbacks for the next two games.
On Sunday, they’ll face the Cleveland Browns, who lost Deshaun Watson to a season-ending shoulder injury. Rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson will start in his place.
The Cincinnati Bengals are Pittsburgh’s Week 12 opponent. The Bengals saw Joe Burrow leave Thursday night’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens with a torn ligament in his wrist that will keep him out for the remainder of the 2023-24 campaign.