By Dale Grdnic
LATROBE, Pa. — Count Cam Heyward’s among those who hate to be late, so while the Pittsburgh Steelers were elated to get their No. 1 draft pick signed, sealed and delivered to training camp Friday at Saint Vincent College it was killing the former Ohio State defensive end to miss half the opening practice.
The Steelers afternoon practice begins around 3 p.m., and it was some 45 minutes later by the time Heyward made it down to the field in full gear. And that would not have gone over too well with his late father, former Pitt All-America running back Craig “Ironhead” Heyward.
“He’d be pretty mad at me right now,” Cam Heyward said. “That’s something me and my brothers always struggled with, because we hate to be late. Even when my mom was always all over the place, we hate it when we’re late. He’d be saying ‘get your butt in there and get to work.’ So, I’ve got a lot to learn.”
Steelers President Art Rooney II introduced Heyward and noted that the 6-foot-5, 288-pounder did things out of order because “he already had his first practice.” Heyward didn’t do much, though, primarily working with associate strength and conditioning coach Marcel Pastoor.
“I’m sorry for being a little late, but I’ll make it up,” Heyward said. “I’ll start to get into the playbook and take advantage of this time. The season’s right around the corner, so I’m looking to contribute and learn from these guys. … With everything that’s gone on, the sooner the better it was for me to get here.
“I haven’t put on a helmet since Jan. 4 (the Buckeyes’ bowl game), so it’s been a long time. I missed too much. I’m a guy who’d rather be out there 10 minutes early, so I’ve got to make this up. Right now, guys are ahead of me, so I have to take it one day at a time and get going.”
With veteran Nick Eason moving on to Pittsburgh West, the Arizona Cardinals, Heyward should quickly move among the top four defensive ends with Brett Keisel, Aaron Smith and Ziggy Hood. He should know a little more about his status during Saturday’s practice, but it likely will be backing up Keisel.
With every starter returning this season, the Steelers defense really hasn’t been shaken too much so far. Although, backup nose tackle Chris Hoke and reserve cornerback Willie Gay have not yet signed free-agent contracts. Third-round corner Curtis Brown was the final rookie draft pick to sign about 6 p.m.
Offensively, however, the front line basically is a mess. The opening offensive tackles in Friday’s practice were Kyle Jolly on the left side and Chris Scott on the right.
First-year player Jolly was on the left side, while second-year pro Scott was on the right. Jolly was on the practice squad last year, while Scott was on the PUP all year until Max Starks went on injured reserve. Scott was then moved to the 53-man roster to finish off the year.
The quarterback rotation went with Ben Roethlisberger to start, Byron Leftwich in the No. 2 spot and Charlie Batch at No. 3. Nobody else saw action in team drills, but not surprisingly neither looked too sharp.
And all three were pressured tremendously from the outset.
Roethlisberger was picked off by cornerback Bryant McFadden, while rookie Cortez Allen had a nice pass breakup on a Leftwich pass.
Third-year player Keenan Lewis held down Ike Taylor’s corner spot since he can’t practice until Thursday. Lewis has more experience than the others, Coach Mike Tomlin said.
Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown were the top three wideouts with Hines Ward starting off on the PUP list. Arnaz Battle got into the rotation after that with Tyler Grisham.
And Limas Sweed primarily worked with Batch and the third group.
Notes: The Steelers opened camp with 86 players on the roster, but after signing Willie Colon and Jonathan Scott and releasing Flozell Adams, they are at 87. … That’s three less than the NFL limit under the new CBA. … The heat index was 93 degrees at about 4 p.m. Friday, but a storm blew through 20 minutes later with heavy downpours for about a 15-minute rain delay. The team returned to the lower turf field to try to finish practice. It cooled off considerably, but a lightning strike five minutes later chased them for good.