More Than a Role Player: Steve Heiden

Cregen McMinnCorrespondent IAugust 24, 2009

CLEVELAND - NOVEMBER 06:  Kellen Winslow #80 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates with Steve Heiden #82 after scoring a touchdown against the Denver Broncos during the first quarter of their NFL game at Cleveland Browns Stadium November 6, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Kellen Winslow era is over in Cleveland, and for most Browns fans not a moment too soon. The often injured and always loud-mouthed tight end is now dropping passes in Tampa Bay. Fortunately the Browns don’t need to look too far for his replacement.

Hiding under Winslow on the depth chart since Winslow’s arrival in 2004, is Steve Heiden. The third round pick by the Chargers in 1999 was acquired by the Browns in 2002. Since he came to Cleveland he’s amassed  177 receptions for 1,529 yards and 11 touchdowns. Those aren’t huge numbers by any means, but Heiden is more than just a pass catcher at tight end.

New Browns coach Eric Mangini says about Heiden: "He has good hands. He understands defenses. He has a good sense of where to sit down in zones. And the fact he can be an effective blocker, he can help us in a lot of ways." A commitment to blocking is why Steve Heiden is the answer.

Kellen Winslow was a major weapon in the passing game, but his ability to engage on a block and lock up the defender was at best below average, and at worst laughable. With Winslow out of the picture the Browns have a tight end who not only can catch passes in the red zone, but can also seal off a hole for Jamal Lewis to run it in.

Another major aspect of Heiden’s game is what he does in the locker room. Staff writer for the Browns Zac Jackson said about Heiden’s skill set “Even when he hasn't been a full-time starter, Heiden has been a key player—a solid blocker, a reliable pass-catcher, and a locker room leader.”

On a team that’s clearly in transition and needs it’s veterans to not only step up but to also aid in the development of the younger players, Heiden becomes even more valuable than just a tight end.

Sure, some people might say Steve Heiden is just a role player. But for the Browns, he’s the answer at tight end and a leader in the locker room.