Michigan State’s Connor Heyward keen to team up with his brother for the Steelers
As Connor Heyward went through the pre-draft process, he continually felt interest from the Steelers.
However, being selected by Pittsburgh was a bit too much for Michigan State’s fifth-year senior tight end, as it would mean teaming up with his older brother, All-Pro defensive lineman Cameron Heyward. Then it became reality.
Heyward was selected by the Steelers with the 30th pick in the sixth round (No. 208 overall) of the 2022 NFL Draft on Saturday and will join the team he grew up watching.
“No, I never teased myself,” Heyward said Saturday. “I wanted this to happen, and if it didn’t happen, I wasn’t going to put it in my head. So now that it happened, I’m glad it did.
It was 11 years ago when 12-year-old Heyward was in the room with Cameron as he was drafted by the Steelers in the first round. The two were together again in Georgia on Saturday when Heyward’s name was dropped from the roster. The town is part of the family because her parents, Charlotte and Craig, met at the University of Pittsburgh. Craig “Ironhead” Heyward was a star rusher for the Panthers who played 11 seasons in the NFL before dying of brain cancer in 2006 at age 39.
Although Heyward was born and raised in Georgia, he feels a connection to the city. Now he will be part of it, even if it was not planned.
“My brother was as surprised as I was, and we were both extremely happy,” Heyward said. “I wasn’t born in Pittsburgh, but Pittsburgh means a lot and (Cameron) has been involved a lot. So it just means a lot more to me.
Heyward’s first four seasons at Michigan State — including a stint in the transfer portal — were all about running back. After the Spartans added the transfer of Wake Forest running back Kenneth Walker III, who went on to be named an All-American in his only season with the program and was picked by the Seahawks in the second round on Friday, Heyward moved on. to tight end / H -back to fall camp. He thrived in the new role while posting 35 catches for 326 yards and two touchdowns and being a standout tackler last season.
The change paid off with invites to the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine and it’s obviously one Heyward enjoys now.
“I don’t think I would be in this position if I didn’t,” he said.
At 5-foot-11 and 233 pounds, Heyward doesn’t have a prototypical length for a tight end, but does have strong hands and a versatile skill set. This led to teams having different projections on how to use it. Heyward said the Steelers view him as a tight end/H-back/fullback and he plans to continue to tackle special teams.
“They like my versatility and I think they have a plan for me,” Heyward said. “Whatever it is, I’m going to embrace it and I’m just thrilled to be a Steeler.”
The Steelers, remarkably, now have up to four sets of brothers on the team. However, coach Mike Tomlin pointed to Heyward’s skills and not his lineage as the reason for drafting him.
“Connor’s resume speaks for itself,” Tomlin said. “It’s a Swiss army knife. He’s very talented, he’s got good skills, he’s a capable runner, he’s a capable blitz pick-up guy, he’s very good in terms of timing and screenplay feel. He made a few plays on the ground as a tight end in that offense. He’s a physical guy. We imagine that he can be an attacking contributor in the teams. He was very worthy of that consideration and I didn’t mean to water it down in any way by including the big brother.
Heyward said Cameron’s facial expression when he found out there would be teammates was “priceless”. However, as the two appeared on ESPN on Saturday night, the older brother and four-time All-Pro joked that his new teammate better get used to wearing his shoulder pads as a rookie.
“He’s going to learn things along the way, I’m going to let him experience that as well,” Cameron said. “I’m going to make sure I do everything I can to make sure he has a great career.”
Moving to Pittsburgh, Heyward said he would likely live with his grandmother or Cameron to settle in before he likely had his own home. This is not a major concern at the moment. It’s the realization that he’s going to the NFL and playing with his brother for the first time, which he doesn’t think will hit him until tomorrow or their first practice.
“He’s been a big brother, but more of a father figure,” Heyward said. “I mean, I can handle tough love. I expect him to come to camp, but that makes the experience even more fun.
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