2011 NFL Draft Results: Grading Cameron Heyward and the Pittsburgh Steelers

Nick Sero@@thesportscannonCorrespondent IIIApril 29, 2011

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 18:  Cameron Heyward #97 of the Ohio State Buckeyes lines up against the Ohio Bobcats at Ohio Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The 2011 NFL Draft wasn't what anyone expected.

The draft was mixed up from the beginning when the Falcons mortgaged their future on Julio Jones and traded five picks to the Cleveland Browns. After that, no pick seemed to match what was expected.

Many players dropped significantly and some players found themselves with teams they never expected.

The Steelers lucked out from all of this confusion. Sitting at the 31st overall selection, the Steelers certainly entertained offers to move back in the 2011 NFL Draft as well as moving up to draft their guy.

Instead, the Steelers stuck to their guns and waited out the draft.

That patience seems to have payed dividends for the Steelers, as Ohio State standout Cameron Heyward fell into their laps. The Steelers will have to keep that patience, as Heyward has some quality football players ahead of him on the roster.

Heyward is ecstatic to be a Pittsburgh Steeler. A life long fan of the Black and Gold, Heyward himself was born in Pittsburgh and his mother has always called Pittsburgh home. His father, best known as "Iron Head" Heyward played his college football at the University of Pittsburgh as well.

The Steelers seemed to have found a great addition to a stellar defensive line. The future security of the defensive line was in question, as only one player on the unit is under 30 years-old.

The Steelers now have their line's future wrapped up in Cameron Heyward and Ziggy Hood taking each end on the line.

Did the Steelers hurt their chances of returning to the Super Bowl this season, however?

No one could argue that the position most in need of an immediate contributor is the cornerback position. The Steelers could have gone and taken "their guy" with Aaron Williams from Texas, but some feel that drafting Williams at No. 31 would have been a reach.

The Steelers should be able to find a solid cornerback in the second round, but will they have to trade up to do so?

Grading out Heyward is much easier than prediciting the Steelers future, however. So we will start with that.

Heyward was incredibly productive at Ohio State. He could have gone and played at Georgia or Pitt as well but he benefited greatly from the coaching staff at Ohio State.

Heyward is very big for his position, which is a necessity as a 3-4 defensive end. His speed isn't going to blow anyone out of the water, but his motor will make him look much faster than his 40 time says.

Heyward is a Steeler type guy. He is incredibly humble, and family oriented with Pittsburgh roots.

Heyward won't be asked to drop back in coverage, which is very good for him as he can look lost when not in the trenches. He is strong against the run, staying low and using his size.

Heyward will continue to get knocked because of his speed, but the Steelers love his motor. He will get after the quarterback using sheer strength to move the offensive line back.

Heyward will need to improve on shedding blocks at the NFL level if he wants his skill to be on display all three downs.

I give Heyward an A-. He certainly was worth greater value than being the 31st overall, and the Steelers lucked out by getting him.

Why does Heyward get the minus attached to his grade? He will take some time to develop for the Steelers' system. Improving his pass rushing ability will be what separates him from being a decent defensive end in Pittsburgh to being held in the same regard as Aaron Smith.

The Steelers' decision to go with the best player available isn't going to impress anyone. Instead of drafting for their most imminent need, the Steelers played it safe.

It is hard to argue with the Steelers' draft plans. They have recently sat at the end of the draft and taken the best player available and had success. Rashard Mendenhall and Ziggy Hood both come to mind. Both players took a year before their skills were seen at the next level, but both have worked out very well.

In each situation, fans would have told you there were more pressing needs. Likely in both years you could argue that offensive line was the position of the greatest need. Instead the Steelers ignored those needs and pulled the trigger.

The Steelers' second and third round picks will determine whether the Heyward selection was the smart move or not, until then it is hard to argue with the Steelers' draft plans.

The Steelers also get an A- here, although it may be too soon to judge their selections in the 2011 NFL Draft.