The Steelers selected Michigan State tight end/fullback Connor Heyward in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft, the 208th overall pick. Heyward is the younger brother of defensive tackle Cameron Heyward.
"Obviously people understand who he is," said General Manager Kevin Colbert. "First and foremost, that's not why we drafted him. Connor Heyward was a running back at Michigan State, and really I give Coach Tucker and his staff credit for taking Connor and using him in a different manner as an H-back tight end/fullback.
"Connor has got exceptional ball skills, receiving abilities, for a big man. We're excited to see what he can do as a tight end, as an H-back, as a special teamer. I don't want to discount, this guy one time against the University of Maryland put up I believe it was 140-some yards in a game, so he's very, very talented. He's very versatile."
Tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts said the team will start Heyward out as a tight end.
"I had an opportunity to look at him as a tight end, as a move guy, and he offers some value," said Roberts.
Heyward does have position flexibility, including fullback and being a threat on special teams.
"I see myself as all of those and so do they," said Heyward. "They like my versatility. They have a plan for me. No matter what it is, I am going to embrace it. I am excited to be a Steeler.
"I know special teams is an important thing. I know what it takes to be successful on special teams. I know special teams can keep you in the NFL longer. You can't shy away from that. That is something you have to want to do."
Heyward heard all of the pre-draft talk about possibly joining his brother in Pittsburgh to play on the same team for the first time, but he tried not to get too caught up in it.
"I always felt like they were interested but I didn't want to get my expectations too high," said Heyward. "I never teased myself one bit. If it didn't happen, I wasn't going to put that in my head. Now that it happened, I am glad that it did.
"My brother is just as surprised as I was. We're both extremely happy. I wasn't born in Pittsburgh, but Pittsburgh means a lot. My family is involved in Pittsburgh a lot, so it just means that much more to me."
When Heyward got the call from Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin, big brother was right beside him trying to find out who was on the other end of the phone.
"He followed me into my mom's room and was like who is that," said Heyward. "I told him just one second. It was Coach Tomlin. About halfway through I told him who it was, and his facial reaction was just priceless."
Big brother Cam tweeted about having a new roommate after the selection, but younger brother has another idea.
"I would live with my grandmother before I live with Cam," said Heyward, whose grandparents live in Pittsburgh where they are from. "Or I will get my own place. For the first couple of weeks or so I am sure I will stay with Cam or my grandmother, get situated and acclimated with the football stuff."
All joking aside, the brothers are happy to be playing together.
"It's all in the family," said Cameron Heyward. "I never played with him. I only watched him from afar. My brother is one of the most competitive people I know. He has had to battle some adversity. Everybody got a chance to look at him when Michigan State played Pitt. I told him this is your moment.
"I am really excited to see what he does for our team."
The Steelers now have four sets of brothers on their roster with T.J. and Derek Watt, Terrell and Trey Edmunds, Carlos and Khalil Davis and the Heyward brothers.
Four-year letterwinner played in 49 career games with the Spartans from 2017-21, including 28 starts (eight in 2018, one in 2019, six in 2020, 13 in 2021 / 15 at running back from 2018-20, 13 at tight end in 2021) . . . accepted a Senior Bowl invitation . . . made the position switch from running back to tight end during preseason camp in 2021 . . . finished his career with 2,265 all-purpose yards (825 rushing, 723 kick return, 711 receiving, 6 punt return) . . . scored 11 career touchdowns (six receiving, five rushing) . . . finished his career with 825 rushing yards on 211 carries with five TDs . . . had 96 career receptions for 711 yards and six touchdowns . . . returned 33 kickoffs in his career for 723 yards, ranking No. 16 on MSU career kick return yards list and tied for No. 18 on career kick return list (33) . . . was a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award as a sophomore in 2018 . . . graduated in May 2021 with a bachelor's degree in communication.
2021 SEASON (GRADUATE SENIOR): Started all 13 games at tight end after making the position switch from running back in preseason camp . . . led Spartan tight ends and ranked tied for third on the team with a career-high 35 receptions for 326 yards and two TDs . . . earned honorable mention All-Big Ten accolades by both the coaches and media . . . was named the Paul Hornung Watch List . . . played a total of 623 snaps, sixth most on the Spartan offense . . . 17 of the 35 catches went for either first downs or touchdowns . . . closed out his Spartan career in his home state of Georgia, catching five passes for 37 yards, including a 15-yard TD in the fourth quarter that sparked MSU's 11-point comeback win over No. 12 Pitt in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl . . . registered season-high four catches in back-to-back games in Ohio State and Penn State games, after snaring previous season-high of three receptions in five different games, including back-to-back games (Rutgers, Western Kentucky), as part of having at least two catches in last nine consecutive games and in 11 of the 13 games overall . . . tied season high by snaring four catches for a season-high 60 yards, including 40 yards after the catch, in Penn State game, with all four coming on scoring drives, (two TDs, one FG) with two going for first downs . . . logged season-high four catches after starting Ohio State contest, most receptions since five vs. Ohio State in 2020 (12/5/20), finishing with 20 yards . . . caught first TD of season on a 2-yard catch in the second quarter of the Maryland game in only catch of the game . . . collected three catches for a season-high 52 yards at Purdue and second-highest receiving total of career, also including second-longest catch of career with a season-long 35-yard reception in first quarter, ending with two of the three catches going for first downs . . . snared two catches for 10 yards in Michigan game, with both going for first downs and both coming on MSU TD drives, in playing 56 snaps . . . had two receptions for 7 yards at Indiana . . . tallied three catches for 17 yards at Rutgers, with one going for a first down . . . had three catches for 5 yards in Western Kentucky contest, playing 50 snaps . . . started Nebraska game at tight end and had two catches for 39 yards, with both coming on same MSU drive in second quarter, including 24 YAC, with most of them on a highlight-reel 34-yard catch, leaping over and bouncing off defender, then running over another would-be tackler and getting first down, part of playing 43 offensive snaps . . . was starting tight end at Miami and had three catches for 49 yards, with 44 coming after contact, and two going for first downs, along with two coming on TD drives, including a 24-yard reception; also had nice double-block on Jayden Reed's 8-yard TD run to seal the Victory for MSU . . . started at tight end vs. Youngstown State, playing 31 snaps . . . made career debut at tight end, starting in season-opening win at Northwestern, and snared three catches for 28 yards including a diving acrobatic catch, along with a third-down reception, running over and carrying several Northwestern defenders on way to first down, keeping Spartan drive going MSU's second possession of the game, which concluded with a TD and a 14-0 lead . . . added a 5-yard catch on MSU's opening possession of the third quarter, resulting in TD for a 28-7 Spartan advantage.
2020 SEASON (REDSHIRT JUNIOR): Led MSU in carries (65) and ranked second in rushing yards (200; 28.6 ypg) . . . also had 18 catches for 71 yards and two TDs . . . ranked third on the team in all-purpose yards (271; 38.7 ypg) . . . had six rushes going for first downs, including three on third down . . . rushed five times for 10 yards at Penn State . . . had eight carries for 11 yards along with season-high five receptions for 10 yards vs. No. 3 Ohio State . . . spearheaded Spartans on ground for second straight game with season-high 96 yards on a career-high 24 carries vs. No. 8 Northwestern . . . led MSU with 27 yards rushing in Indiana game on five carries (5.4 ypc) with a long of 14 yards . . . started game at Iowa and had three rushes for 10 yards and added two catches for 12 yards . . . started at No. 13 Michigan and had two catches, both going for TDs, with a 2-yard catch in the second quarter and 13-yard screen pass in the fourth quarter, getting great blocking from o-line, for the Spartans' insurance score; added 13 carries for 28 yards . . . posted 18 yards on seven carries along with five catches for 25 yards in starting vs. Rutgers.
2019 SEASON (REDSHIRT): Had 131 all-purpose yards (79 rushing, 52 receiving) in four games . . . preserved his redshirt season . . . posted three carries for 17 yards to go with two catches for 11 yards at Northwestern . . . had three carries for 6 yards with one catch for 6 yards in Arizona State game . . . tallied 13 yards on three carries to go with one catch for 7 yards against Western Michigan . . . recorded 71 all-purpose yards (43 rushing, 28 receiving) after starting season opener vs. Tulsa, including a 15-yard TD catch from Brian Lewerke, with a catch, run and dive, getting ball just inside the pylon on MSU's opening possession for first TD of season.
2018 SEASON (SOPHOMORE): Named one of five finalists for the Paul Hornung Award, given to the nation's most versatile player . . . named honorable mention All-Big Ten as kick returner as selected by the media . . . earned MSU Downtown Coaches Club Award for most outstanding offensive player . . . also named the team's most outstanding underclass back . . . led MSU in rushing yards (529; 40.7 ypg), rushing touchdowns (5), carries (118), all-purpose yards (1,065; 81.9 ypg) and kick returns (13 for 287 yards; 22.1 avg.) . . . ranked third on the team in receptions with 32, the most by a Spartan running back since Le'Veon Bell in 2012 . . . also ranked third on the team in scoring (30 points) and fifth in receiving yards (249) . . . had five games with at least 100 all-purpose yards . . . totaled 139 all-purpose yards vs. Rutgers, with 81 rushing yards on 19 carries, 27 receiving yards on four catches and 31 kick return yards on one kick return, including a 26-yard run with just over one minute remaining that gave MSU a first down and sealed the win . . . collected 177 all-purpose yards at Nebraska for second-best output of the season (208 vs. Maryland) . . . on the ground against the Huskers, had a career-high 21 carries for 80 yards, adding five receptions for a career-best 78 yards, including a career-long 36-yard catch in the third quarter and a 34-yard catch in the fourth quarter . . . added a 19-yard kickoff return . . . had four rushes, one catch and one kick return against Ohio State . . . ran for a career-high 157 yards on 15 carries and tied career high with two rushing touchdowns at Maryland, earning MSU Offensive Player of the Week team award . . . scored on an 18-yard TD in the first quarter and on an 80-yard TD in the fourth quarter that put MSU on top 24-3 . . . the 80-yard TD run was the longest of the season for MSU and the first Spartan rushing TD of at least 80 yards since 2014 (Delton Williams 80 yards vs. Eastern Michigan) . . . also had a career-high 208 all-purpose yards (157 rushing, 49 kick return, 2 receiving) against the Terrapins . . . had a season-long 49-yard kickoff return to open the second half . . . the 157 rushing yards were the most ever by a Spartan against Maryland (previous: LJ Scott with 147 yards in 2016) . . . named to the Paul Hornung Award honor roll for his performance at Maryland . . . logged two carries for 7 yards against Purdue, adding one kick return for 21 yards . . . posted three carries and one catch in Michigan game, adding 16-yard kick return . . . started at running back at Penn State, making fourth consecutive start, and tallied 79 all-purpose yards on 44 yards rushing on eight carries, adding four catches for 20 yards and one kick return for 15 yards . . . started Northwestern game for his third start in a row at running back, logging career-high seven catches for 30 yards, along with five carries for 12 yards, adding two kick returns for 29 yards, finishing with 71 all-purpose yards . . . made second straight start by opening Central Michigan game at running back, and rushed for 48 yards on 15 carries, scoring third rushing TD of the season on a 2-yard run in the third quarter . . . also led MSU with four receptions (16 yards) . . . finished game with 100 all-purpose yards (48 receiving; 36 kick return; 16 receiving . . . was named to the Pro Football Focus Big Ten Team of the Week for his performance against the Chippewas . . . made first start of career in Indiana game and rushed 12 times for 23 yards, along with one catch for 16 yards . . . had four catches for 43 yards at Arizona State; added team-leading 22 yards on five carries . . . rushed for 42 yards on five carries (8.4 avg.) vs. Utah State . . . he scored the first two rushing TDs of his career (17 yards with 9:06 left in the third quarter; game-winning 13-yarder with two minutes left in fourth quarter) . . . he finished with 105 all-purpose yards (63 kick return yards) against the Aggies.
2017 SEASON (FRESHMAN): Played in 12 games, making Spartan debut against Western Michigan, to earn his first letter . . . led team with 20 kick returns for 436 kick return yards (21.8 avg.), ranking third in the B1G in kickoff return average . . . had 465 all-purpose yards (38.8 ypg) . . . also played 22 snaps on offense . . . had two kick returns for 57 yards, with a long of 33 yards, against No. 18 Washington State in the Holiday Bowl . . . scored first TD of Spartan career at Rutgers on a 7-yard TD catch and added one rush for 7 yards . . . tallied 87 kick return yards on season-high seven kick returns at No. 11 Ohio State . . . posted 100 all-purpose yards in win over No. 7 Penn State on four kick returns with a long of 28 yards . . . had 44 all-purpose yards at Northwestern with two kick returns for 36 yards, one catch for 5 yards and two rushes for 3 yards, which were first rushing attempts this season . . . had one kick return for 20 yards in Indiana and was also on offense, attempting one pass that was knocked down in the end zone . . . had smashing debut as kick returner in Minnesota game, posting three returns for 115 yards (38.3 ypr) with a long of 55-yards, steam-rolling tackler on way out-of-bounds . . . caught first pass of Spartan career at Michigan for 2 yards.
HIGH SCHOOL AND PERSONAL DATA: Versatile athlete played five different positions (quarterback, receiver, running back, safety, punter) and was a three-year starter on varsity for Coach Mark Fleetwood at Peachtree Ridge High School . . . ranked among the top players in Georgia by ESPN.com (No. 58) and 247Sports (No. 96) . . . listed one of the top all-purpose athletes in the nation by 247Sports (No. 64), Scout.com (No. 67) and ESPN.com (No. 91) . . . rated one of the top all-purpose athletes in Georgia (No. 11) and the South (No. 30) by Scout.com . . . named first-team All-Gwinnett County and was an honorable mention all-state choice . . . selected for the 2016 Gwinnett All-Star Game . . . team captain had 47 receptions for 580 yards, including six touchdown catches, as a senior in 2016 . . . ran for 250 yards on 57 carries and accounted for 10 rushing TDs . . . on defense, started every game at safety and totaled 71 tackles, seven pass break-ups and three interceptions . . . also had a 37.0-yard punting average . . . ended his varsity career with more than 125 receptions and 35 total touchdowns . . . four-year starter on the basketball team . . . son of Charlotte and the late Craig Heyward . . . born Jan. 22, 1999 . . . his late father, Craig, played college football at Pittsburgh before spending 11 years in the NFL with New Orleans (1988-1991), Chicago (1992), Atlanta (1994-95), St. Louis (1997) and Indianapolis (1998); he rushed for 4,301 career yards and was a Pro Bowl selection in 1995 with the Falcons . . . his oldest brother, Cameron, was a 2011 NFL first-round draft choice (No. 31 overall) out of Ohio State and is in his 10th season with the Steelers as a defensive end; he has earned Pro Bowl honors four straight years (2017-20) and All-Pro accolades twice (2017, 2019) . . . also has an older brother, Corey, who played basketball at Georgia Tech (2013-17) . . . graduated in May 2021 with a bachelor's degree in communication.