Defensive end Cameron Heyward has served as a defensive captain for the Pittsburgh Steelers for nine straight seasons. So, with the team’s season seemingly on the brink following the 21-18 loss to the New England Patriots on December 7, it wasn’t surprising to see Heyward being a leader in his postgame press conference.
Heyward’s overall message to his teammates was rather clear — either learn from the mistakes and start playing better or find a new profession.
“When you lose, people keep trying to do the same thing,” Heyward told reporters. “Either we learn from our mistakes, or they’re going to continue to keep biting us in the butt.
“Either guys learn, or you’ve gotta change who’s in there, myself included. If I can’t execute, then you’ve gotta take me out. That’s just the way the group rolls. That’s the way we’ve always done it. I think we have the capable men of doing that.”
Steelers Make the Wrong Kind of History With Patriots Loss
It’s not an overreaction to call Pittsburgh’s last two losses to the Patriots and Arizona Cardinals in Week 13 historic.
With those two defeats, the Steelers became the first winning team in NFL history to lose back-to-back games to teams at least eight games below .500.
“Is this good?” Communications specialist Dan Vasko tweeted.
— Dan Vasko (@danvasko) December 8, 2023
A week ago, the Steelers had a golden opportunity. If they took care of business against two teams challenging for the 2024 NFL draft’s top pick, they would have improved to 9-4.
With that record, maybe the Steelers could have challenged the Baltimore Ravens for the AFC North title.
The Ravens are in contention for the conference’s first-round bye too. If the Steelers ran the table from Weeks 13-18, the AFC’s top seed wasn’t out of reach.
Prior to Week 13, Pittsburgh’s four losses were to playoff teams — the San Francisco 49ers, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns. The Steelers were set to play just two teams in playoff contention in their final six games.
They also had yet to lose two in a row before Week 13.
Yet, the Steelers started their final six-game stretch with two defeats. Now, the Steelers no longer hold a playoff spot or control their own destiny.
Steelers Cameron Heyward Calls for Accountability
Coaches will sometimes throw out game film and simply move on after a very poor performance. But that’s definitely not what Heyward is demanding from the Steelers coaching staff and players.
Heyward called for his teammates to own their mistakes in order to make the proper corrections.
“I think Mike T likes to absorb the film before he really makes a judgement, and I think that’s fair,” Heyward told reporters. “Obviously, players are ticked off and mad about the game, but it’s just about being smart with your words and getting back in the lab and absorbing what’s really going on.
“You can’t put a mask over this. This has been two ugly games that we have to be accountable for.”
While the Steelers have fallen to eighth place in the AFC, there is still about a quarter of the season remaining. Although the schedule gets more difficult, the Steelers will have their opportunity to bounce back.
But as Heyward said, the Steelers have to fix their mistakes first.