This week's Meat Eater Matchup features Guard/Tackle Tom Compton of the New York Jets locking horns with Pro Bowl Defensive Tackle, and Steelers defensive leader, Cam Heyward.
Compton, in his eighth year, stands 6-foot-6, and weighs in at 315 pounds and will be the starting Right Guard.
Lining across from him (and in other spots), will be Heyward, 6-foot-5, and weighing in at 295 pounds.
Compton is tall, with long levers and length. However those long levers and length create problems for him on the inside. At Tackle, and the more wide open spaces afforded to the pass rushers there, they would be an advantage.
Not an overpowering run blocker, Compton will fight for the inside hand position. He struggles to maintain pressure, and rarely wins the "second surge" on running plays. You would not be incorrect to call him a position blocker.
Much of the inside work deals with combo blocking with either a center, or a tackle. Compton doesn't overpower the down man (defensive lineman), but attempts to seal the man by positioning himself after the drive man goes on to the second level.
That's all well and good, but he tends to lose that position after the drive man leaves and he's mano-y-mano with the defensive lineman.
When Compton takes the position of the drive man, and comes off on the second level linebackers, he will "body up" against them, but not overpower them.
Where I see Heyward excelling, in this instance, is taking on the double team. Using his low pad level and extremely strong lockout, not only will Heyward hold the point on the double team, but I think he will be able to neutralize, disengage, and get to the ball.
Part of Compton's problem is his upright drive blocking posture. Rather than getting low and gaining maximum leverage, Compton stands tall and those long levers of his negate power production.
When Compton gets out on a search and destroy mission though, he demonstrates he can run well for a big man.
However, where he lacks, on those search and destroy missions, is when he gets to the impact zone. Compton will slow, almost coming to a stop, gather himself and then accelerate his feet. This obviously lessens the impact, and tends to create a pileup in the hole.
Chuck Noll's words reverberate in my gourd to this day, "Don't stop your feet in the hole!"
Stopping the feet on contact is anathema to an offensive lineman.
When Compton and Heyward engage in "bear-wrestling" there is a decided advantage to Heyward. Heyward's upper body power and strength should be great pluses in this matchup of meat-eaters.
Where Compton could gain an advantage is when he can stabilize, lower his center and "waddle-step" (extremely short steps). If Compton can get his body up against Heyward, while winning the inside hand fighting battle, he has a chance.
Film review will show that Compton is vulnerable to the outside pass rush, whether by push/pull, or trapping his outside arm.
Compton really struggles in the "push/pull" aspect of standup grappling. Players either get it or they don't. And in the quasi-sumo world of push, then pulling forces, he often gets uprooted, and forced off balance.
Pass protection is another world on the inside versus the outside. Playing guard, the action is tighter, quicker and tends to be more punishing, given the size of the large carnivores competing in smaller quarters.
Heyward has a very explosive, and powerful under and up bull rush action. It will be kryptonite to Compton's pass protection skills.
When Heyward gets the uppercut on an opponent, he gets his hip alongside the body of the offensive lineman, and uproots with power. Using his great lower body strength, Heyward can take advantage of Compton's high hip level and get penetration.
And there is simply no way to describe his power. Go back, and watch the Colts film of Heyward bull rushing Colts 6-foot-5, 330 pound guard Quinton Nelson. Heyward over powered Nelson to the point of using Nelson's prodigious backside to slam into, and then knock out of the game, Quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
Heyward, in his ninth year of playing, has ascended to the level of truly great players.
Certainly, there will never be another Joe Greene, to be sure. But in Heyward, I think we are getting as close to "Mean Joe," as maybe we're ever going to see in the 'Burgh again.