5 for Friday: Enjoy Heyward while you can

I'm not a huge fan of the grades handed out by the Pro Football Focus website as regular readers and listeners can attest.

After all, unless the same person is grading each player, it's not all that different from two different teachers holding the same course but having different styles of subjective grading. Word travels quickly if one is an easier grader than the other.

There's also the fact that many times, the people grading at Pro Football Focus are guessing what the exact assignment was on a particular play and therefore are very open to getting things wrong when handing out blame.

Recently, however, PFF's social media account put out a Tweet naming the four players in the NFL who have posted a grade of at least 85 as a pass rusher and run stopper since the start of 2021 season. The list is Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward, Bills outside linebacker Von Miller, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Raiders defensive end Max Crosby.

In other words, those four players are elite all-around players.

Now 34 and the oldest player on that list, Heyward remains a dominant force for the Steelers with no sign of slowing down.

The only defensive tackle in the NFL who had more tackles than Heyward's 74 last season was Christian Wilkins of the Dolphins. But Heyward had 10.5 sacks, while Wilkins had 3.5.

Only Kansas City's Chris Jones, Quinnen Williams of the Jets, Washington's Darron Payne and the Eagles' Javon Hargrave had more sacks than Heyward.

But none had nearly as many tackles as Heyward. Jones, for example, had 15.5 sacks, but only 44 tackles.

More importantly for the Steelers, Heyward is the unquestioned straw the stirs the drink in their locker room.

"A leader. A seasoned veteran. One of the best players to play the position in the game," nose tackle Breiden Fehoko said recently of Heyward. "I'm very fortunate to be in the meeting room with him every day, working with him, grinding with him, just picking his brain whenever I can. He's a player I've looked up to since I was in high school. I don't want that to sound bad. But we were talking in the locker room the other day and I said, 'Cam, what year is this for you?' He said he was going into Year 13. Wow. He's still in the prime of his career. He ages like a fine wine."

All fans of football should hope that's the case if they enjoy seeing one of the best to do it, regardless of era.

While the Steelers have invested some premium draft picks in their defensive line in recent years, they still only have one Heyward. He's an all-time great, one who should get strong consideration for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he finally does hang up his cleats -- several years down the road.

• This is the time of year for lists. The league is pretty quiet right now as everyone is on break before the start of the season.

Some recent lists have ranked the offensive weapons on each team, going with the top five weapons, presumably three wide receivers, a tight end and running back.

That's the beauty of what the Steelers have done this offseason. Is their top-five weapon grouping 11 personnel (three wide receivers, one tight end and a running back), 12 personnel (two wide receivers, two tight ends and a running back), 22 personnel with two tight ends and two running backs or some other package?

The top two wide receivers, tight end and running back are set with Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, Pat Freiermuth and Najee Harris. But who will be the top fifth option? Will it be Allen Robinson, Calvin Austin, Connor Heyward, Jaylen Warren, Zach Gentry, Darnell Washington or someone not even mentioned here?

After all, a year ago, Warren, for example, was an unknown heading into July.

There are plenty of options. And the Steelers can go big or little. They can put a power lineup on the field or they can go with a speedier option.

It's a pretty nice build.

• The Steelers finished last season 18th in total offensive DVOA per Football Outsiders and 14th in weighted offensive DVOA over the 2022 season.

But if you look at offensive DVOA from Week 10 on, the Steelers were 10th. Football Outsiders doesn't do a weighted DVOA for shortened periods, but it stands to figure the Steelers would have been pretty good there, as well.

And that, of course, was with a rookie quarterback running the show.

It's no wonder, therefore, that people are bullish on what the Steelers can be offensively in 2023.

The Steelers were 24th in red zone touchdown percentage last season at 51.9 percent. But they were 16th in red zone trips, considered any drive that ends inside the opposing 20. And that was over the course of the entire season.

Even if there's no improvement in the number of red zone trips the Steelers make in 2023 and the team is league average there, increasing their red zone touchdown percentage to the middle of the pack – Denver at 55.6 percent was 16th – will equal more points this season.

Also factor in the fact placekicker Chris Boswell had an off season, missing eight field goal attempts in an injury-shortened season, and the Steelers missed a league-high 10 field goals overall, and you see why there is optimism this offense should be better.

• Everyone will be coming out with their top-100 players lists soon. In fact, CBS Sports' Pete Prisco already did one, beating everyone else to the punch.

Fans will talk about it and get upset if their team was as represented as well as they thought it should be or their favorite player didn't make the cut.

But realize that there are 1,696 potential spots in the NFL each season. That means if you make the cut as one of the top 100, you're in the top 5.8 percent of players in the league.

To make it into the top 50, you've got to be in the top 2.9 percent.

To be selected as a top-20 player means you're in the top 1.2 percent of the league.

It's all about perspective.

• Dale Lolley is co-host of "SNR Drive" on Steelers Nation Radio. Subscribe to the podcast here: Apple Podcast | iHeart Podcast

• One of the great things about the Steelers being at Saint Vincent College for training camp is that they're able to have all full practices open to the public. Walk-throughs aren't open, but if the team is having a regular practice, fans are able to attend.

If, for example, the Steelers chose to hold their training camp practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, as many teams do with their regular practice facilities, that wouldn't be possible.

Over the last week or so, a lot of teams have been trumpeting the fact that they'll have a certain number of training camp practices available for fans to attend.

The Steelers are currently scheduled, weather permitting, to have 16 full practices at Saint Vincent College or Latrobe Memorial Stadium. All are open to the public.

Compare that to the announcements of some other teams in recent weeks. New England, for example, has four open camp practices. Cleveland has eight, Cincinnati 10 and Atlanta 12.

The open practices offer fans a unique opportunity to come out and see the team and interact with players pre- and post-practice.

And it's all at no cost. The only thing the Steelers ask is that fans have tickets that can be downloaded for free at https://www.ticketmaster.com/promo/tmdd1k. That is essential only so that the team can get an accurate head count of how many people will be attending.

Also, if you haven't already done so, download the Steelers Mobile App. You'll get all the latest updates on there if practice happens to be canceled or moved.

You also can listen to Steelers Nation Radio for the latest updates live on what's happening at practice, as well.