Let the competition in the trenches commence

Cam Heyward knows the Steelers' defensive line won't be playing against the Rams' defensive line, but he still maintains the Steelers' unit can and should outplay the Rams' much-more-publicized defensive front.

"Me, (Stephon) Tuitt and Steve (McLendon) all look at it as a challenge," Heyward maintained. "What defensive line is going to be the most dominant? What Front Seven is going to be more dominant in the game?

"It all depends on their offensive line and our offensive line. I'm going to take our offensive line vs. anybody, so we expect to win week in and week out."

The Steelers' returned their offensive line intact from last season, then lost center Maurkice Pouncey in the preseason (he's been replaced by Cody Wallace).

The Rams have four players starting along the offensive line in positions they didn't occupy a season ago. Left tackle Greg Robinson (the second overall pick in 2014) played guard as a rookie. Center Tim Barnes is a fourth-year pro and a first-time starter. And right tackle Rob Havenstein (second round) and left guard Jamon Brown (third round) are rookies.

St. Louis' defensive line is comprised of four former No. 1 picks, end Chris Long (2008), end Robert Quinn (2011), tackle Michael Brockers (2012) and tackle Aaron Donald (2014).

"They're special," Steelers guard David DeCastro confirmed. "High picks and they put it out on film. They live up to all the hype, especially No. 99, Donald.

"He's a special player."

The Steelers' first-team defensive line consists of a former No. 1 pick (Heyward, 2011) and a recent No. 2 (Tuitt, 2014) at end sandwiching a former undrafted free agent (McLendon, 2009) at nose tackle.

Here is a look at the statistical leaders for both the Steelers and Rams heading into Sunday's Week 3 matchup at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri.

They initially perceived Tuitt as a first-round talent who wasn't able to maintain proper weight and conditioning due to an injury prior to his junior (and final) season at Notre Dame.

Heyward sees Tuitt as a player ready to make his mark as an NFL sophomore, one that can continue to help the Steelers' defensive line make a difference.

Tuitt had one-and-a-half sacks in the Steelers' 43-18 win over San Francisco.

"Tuitt has great athletic ability," Heyward said. "He has a year under his belt. He's going to get a lot of opportunities to get one-on-ones.

"I'm getting doubled (double-teamed) he should be wining the one-on-ones. And if he's getting doubled I should be winning the one-on-ones. We can balance each other out like that and keep everybody accountable."

Let the competition in the trenches commence.

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.