Heyward practicing with a purpose

LATROBE, Pa. - There's a reason Cameron Heyward couldn't be more engaged in his sixth training camp with the Steelers.

"Because I don't have a Super Bowl," he said. "I'm making sure we cross every 't' and we're dotting every 'i' to make sure we give ourselves a good chance to win."

For Heyward, that means attention to detail on every practice rep, whether he's participating or observing.

That's why he can be heard encouraging nose tackle Vince Williams to keep rushing hard prior to a snap in "Pass Under Pressure," or admonishing cornerback Al-Hajj Shabazz to finish a "Seven Shots" play with an interception rather than settling for just a pass defensed.

Heyward knows the Steelers are applying what they're doing in practices to game situations, and that the scenarios unfolding in August at Saint Vincent College might come up again in December in Cincinnati.

That's why he's staying "all in," even when he rotates out of a particular drill.

"When you're on the sidelines you want to take those mental reps and you want everybody to compete at a high level and understand the magnitude of every situation," Heyward said.

"Just critiquing, being a stickler on the little things and understanding we might not get that shot again. So make the most of that opportunity and that way you can apply it in a game and you're ready for that moment."

The Steelers have known commodities at defensive end in Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, and McCullers has been running with the first team at nose tackle.

In the ongoing search for depth along the defensive line, 2015 six-round pick L.T. Walton, back for his second season with the Steelers, and seventh-year pro Ricardo Mathews, formerly of the Chargers and the Colts, have gotten Heyward's attention.

"I really like Ricardo Mathews and I also like L.T. Walton," Heyward said. "Those two guys understand what we're getting oursleves into. L.T. has a bit of an edge because he's seen the playbook and we expect him to take another jump, but Ricardo's very athletic."

Take a look at photos of the Pittsburgh Steelers' 9th training camp practice.

The Steelers also invested a third-round pick this year in South Carolina State defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, and for Hargrave there are accompanying expectations.

"Just growth throughout the entire year," Heyward said. "Hopefully, he's not the same player that he was at the end of the year, that's a great thing to say. That means you were good then but you improved down the road.

"We know he's going to experience growing pains. We're trying to work that out now.

He has to continue to grow. He has to continue to get better. He has to be a force in some way. He has to understand, 'I have to contribute on special teams. I have to contribute in the weight room. I have to make sure I'm giving good looks for the offense (on the scout team).'

"And then when he's on defense he has to be willing to rush the passer, what he's done at South Carolina State, and be able to stop the run, as well."
As Hargrave attempts all of the above, Heyward will be watching - and providing plenty of play-by-play appraisal as necessary.

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