Heyward's expectations match Tomlin's


Mike Tomlin's publicly stated intention for the Steelers' defense is to get back into the conversation as one of the best in the NFL in 2015.

That's Cam Heyward's intention, too.

"Agreed," the fifth-year defensive end said.

It was during the NFL Owners Meetings in Phoenix just last month where Tomlin outlined expectations for a unit that last season was the league's 18th-ranked defense.

"Our goal is to be the very best, or at least be in that discussion, depending on how you define it," he said. "Obviously, the last couple of years I don't think we've had a legitimate argument in that discussion. We have (had a legitimate argument) for a great number of the years I've been here, and that's our intention, to be back in that discussion no matter how you shape it or cut it."

In the first few days of Phase I of the Steelers offseason program, Heyward maintained that such lofty expectations are attainable.

"I think so," he said. "If that's not our motto, it should be. We've had a tradition of having great defenses. Now we have a great offense. Why not have a great defense, as well?

"We know our offense can put some points on the board, but I have a lot of faith in our defense. We can be the best defense. We have the guys capable of doing it."

Top photos of Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward.

The Steelers will need to identify a few more of those before opening the regular season on Sept. 10 at New England.

Gone are longtime defensive stalwarts Ike Taylor, Brett Keisel and Troy Polamalu, as well as coordinator Dick LeBeau. LeBeau's replacement, former linebackers coach Keith Butler, is already in place.

Other holes must be filled between now and New England.

"We got to find some guys, but we're not just looking to plug holes," Heyward said. "As much as we've had guys here, we're looking for guys to be mainstays and looking for guys to produce every day. We're not just looking for someone to stick in there and say, 'Hey, just go out and play.' We're looking for guys to be successful.

"That's the way we have to look at it. You see the history and traditions around here, we're not going to settle for anything less."

The Steelers' defense got better from start to finish last season. The idea will be to get off to a better start this season.

"I think minicamp is going to be critical and then training camp, as well," Heyward said. "This is going to be a totally different defense (minus Taylor, Keisel and Polamalu). Having everybody on the same page is the first step. It's going to be huge."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.