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Making a name for himself

In the corner of the Steelers locker room you will find rookie tight end/fullback Connor Heyward's locker.

The Steelers sixth-round draft pick out of Michigan State is nestled between two defensive linemen, maybe not where a rookie offensive player normally would be, but when one of those players is your older brother, Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, it all makes sense.

While his locker might be in the shadow of his older brother's locker, there is one thing that isn't happening. The younger Heyward isn't getting lost in his brother's shadow on the field, around his teammates, or in any other aspect of his new job. Not even close.

He is making a name for himself, simply becoming Connor to his teammates and not Cam's younger brother.

"Honestly, the guys inside the tight end room and all the guys on the team embrace not only me, but all the other rookies," said Heyward. "I definitely feel more comfortable. This is home now. All the guys have accepted me. I felt like they accepted me even back when I was coming to visit Cam. But now, I'm here for work and they know that and I'm a teammate and I'm a brother to them and they're brothers to me.

"The tight ends have been real helpful. Even more off the field than on the field, helping me get comfortable here and letting me be myself. They embrace me and I feel like I am one of them now.

"I'm more comfortable every day, I am excited to work. I look at it as a job now, coming in every day to get better, learn as much as I can from older guys and ask questions when needed."

While the players all have some time off now until the start of training camp, Heyward isn't sitting idle. The understanding that football is a job has him working daily to be in the best shape he possibly can when the team reports to Saint Vincent College.

"I just need to stay in shape," said Heyward. "I think you can always get in better shape, and I'm trying to get in the best shape possible coming into camp. And I am spending time studying everything, every position on the offensive side of the ball so I can play that much faster.

"This is our job. It's a dream come true. The National Football League is what we all wanted to do all our lives, and nothing is better than that. This is the Pittsburgh Steelers, the best organization in the National Football League. None of us take it for granted. It's amazing just to focus on football and our body and the weight room and our scheme."

It's not just the offensive scheme that Heyward is focusing on. Special teams are also going to be a huge part of his game, and he doesn't mind it at all. He was accustomed to playing special teams at Michigan State and is ready to jump right back into it.

"It's extremely important," said Heyward. "At Michigan State we valued special teams. The best players were playing on special teams. It's different when you come to the NFL. The starters aren't playing as much on special teams. You can lose and win games on special teams, so it's extremely important."

Heyward has already welcomed the enthusiastic approach that special teams coordinator Danny Smith brings to the unit, an attitude that makes practice fun.

"He's really intense. Real hands on," said Heyward. "You have to love that in a coach. He makes it fun. Also, after practice in the spring, getting extra work because he knows it's not going to happen overnight. It's going to be something we rep over time and I am looking forward to doing more of it in camp."

And it won't be long before Heyward is at Saint Vincent College for camp, a place he is familiar with having visited Cam time and time again.

But this time, it's completely different.

"I would come to camp, or the facility with Cam and I was just a kid in a candy store," said Heyward. "But now it's reality and I have a different perspective. I have grown up a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and to be a Pittsburgh Steeler is amazing. I only had to like one team all my life."