5:55pm: Heyward will indeed undergo surgery, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The procedure will take place on Wednesday, and it is expected to keep him sidelined for up to eight weeks. For the second straight season, therefore, the Steelers will exit Week 1 with a foundational member of their defense unavailable for much of the campaign.
3:00pm: The Steelers’ defense will be shorthanded while attempting to rebound from their Week 1 loss. Defensive tackle Cameron Heyward suffered a groin injury during Sunday’s game and he is facing a multi-week absence as a result, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network reports.
Garafolo adds that an IR stint is likely, and that surgery is an option being considered at this point. Players put on injured reserve are required to miss at least four weeks, and an absence of that length would deal a major blow to Pittsburgh’s defensive front.
Heyward exited the Steelers’ lopsided loss to the 49ers midway through the contest and a return was quickly ruled out. That signaled an injury of some significance could be revealed not long afterwards, and that has now proven to be the case. This will mark the first notable missed time for the three-time All-Pro since 2016, a testament to his durability during much of his 13-year Pittsburgh tenure.
A full-time starter since his third season with the team, Heyward has established himself as a stalwart on the Steelers’ defense. The 34-year-old has earned a Pro Bowl nod in each of the last six seasons, and he has posted double-digit sacks in three of those campaigns. His role in maintaining the team’s dominance in the sack department has been crucial while giving the Steelers an interior rush presence to compliment edge producers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith.
With 163 stops and 29 tackles for loss across the 2021 and ’22 seasons, Heyward also proven to be an integral part of the team’s run defense through the latter stages of his career. His absence will be acutely felt moving forward, as was the case last season when Watt was sidelined by a pectoral tear. His return to the lineup helped spark a late-season playoff push for the Steelers, and Pittsburgh will hope a similar situation can play out in 2023 if Heyward does end up missing considerable time.
Along the defensive interior, the Steelers will move forward with Larry Ogunjobi – who re-signed on a three-year, $28.75MM deal this offseason – as a key starter. Aside from the former Brown and Bengal, though, the team is generally lacking in experience up front. Second-round rookie Keeanu Benton and 2022 third-rounder DeMarvin Leal are among the young players who are in line for an increased workload in Heyward’s absence.