Cameron Heyward is a finalist for the seventh annual Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, presented annually to a player for their on-field sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for the game and opponents, and integrity in competition.
Heyward was announced as the Steelers' nominee on Dec. 3, and then named a finalist today.
The award was created in 2014 to honor Art Rooney Sr., the founder of the Steelers and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"Art Rooney is an iconic figure in NFL history," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the time the award was introduced. "It is appropriate that we honor his legacy in this way and recognize NFL players for one of the important values that Mr. Rooney represented so well."
Heyward, a defensive captain for the sixth straight year, is nominated for the second time in his career. He is a leader on the field and off for the team, providing an impeccable example for younger players to follow for his dedication, determination, work ethic and the way he put the integrity of the game at the forefront.
One player from every team was nominated for the award, and eight finalists, four in each conference, were selected by members of the NFL Legends Community, including Warrick Dunn, Curtis Martin, Karl Mecklenburg and Leonard Wheeler.
"You try to think about the man who is representing the organization, their teammates and also what they are doing on the football field – the impact they are having," said Dunn. "You want guys who display leadership, who go above and beyond, who think about their teammates before they think about themselves. It is always hard to narrow down the list of individuals for this award."
Current players will have the final say when the eight appear on their Pro Bowl ballot under NFL Sportsmanship Award. The winner is announced during the NFL Honors show the night before the Super Bowl.
"There are a lot of good football players in the NFL, but there are a lot of selfish players. Cam is not like that," said assistant head coach John Mitchell, who also coached Heyward on the line in the past. "Cam wants to win. He doesn't care if his number is called or not. What I like about him is when he encourages a player, or corrects a player, he is correcting himself. I have heard him tell players this is what we have to do, but I have to do it just as well as you have to do. That makes the player he is engaging with feel good because they know he isn't just talking to them, but he is talking to himself too, saying Coach Mitchell wants me to do it better too."
The award was named after Rooney because of the class he brought to the NFL and his approach that always had sportsmanship at the forefront.
"It is gratifying that sportsmanship is the category," said Steelers President Art Rooney II when the award was first introduced in 2014. "It's appropriate. I like to think of my grandfather as someone who truly was a good sport, somebody who cared about the respect and the integrity of the game. The fact it's being voted on by the players, well, the recipient can feel good about it because it's voted on by his peers."
The full list of finalist include: QB Teddy Bridgewater (Carolina), DE Calais Campbell (Baltimore), LB Lavonte Davis (Tampa Bay), DT Cameron Heyward (Pittsburgh), DE Justin Houston (Indianapolis), FB Kyle Juszczyk (San Francisco), C Jason Kelce (Philadelphia) and WR Matthew Slater (New England).