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Cam Heyward on the Steelers playoffs, father, Ben Roethlisberger

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Cam Heyward on the Steelers playoffs, father, Ben Roethlisberger

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Five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward takes a timeout for a Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.

Q: What does it mean to be a Pittsburgh Steeler?

A: The tradition that was established before I was even here…there is a winning culture that goes along with it. But it’s a working-class city that football, everyone breathes. And when you put on that shirt, there’s a level of honor and respect, and you if you’re playing defense, you better be ready to hit…to be awesome, be about to win and be about of that culture, because that’s what Pittsburgh Steelers do.

Q: What motivates you?

A: I think growing up, always with my dad [Craig “Ironhead” Heyward] shadow, I wanted to create my own legacy, and I wanted to make sure that when you heard my name, it wasn’t just Craig Hayward’s son, and I’m trying to live that. I try to make sure I leave a lasting legacy in everything I do. But as an individual and part of this NFL, you ultimately have to win a Super Bowl. I can say that I’ve never done that, and I know that when you play for Pittsburgh, that’s what you’re judged on: did you manage to do it for your team? I see myself as a guy who not only wants to be recognized as one of the best guys in my position, but a guy that I would do whatever it takes to win a championship.

Q: Do you think your late father is proud of you today?

A: I hope he’s proud of me. I tried not only to accept what he presented, being back in the city where he spent four years in college and the rest of my family where my mother’s side is from, I embraced this. And not only am I trying to be a good football player, I’m trying to be a good man. It means being a person in the community, a leader in the community. I want to make sure I do my part. My mother and father have always wanted to give back and help others, and I understand that I am in a privileged position to do so.

Q: What makes your father so proud of him?

A: It always makes me proud because he left lasting imprints on people. I hear so many different stories – good and bad – but the fact that he can have a conversation with a kid from children’s hospital with a guy at the bar… everyone has always, always spoken about their experiences with Ironhead. And my dad had the biggest heart. He cared about so many people and he was 110% invested in everything he did.

Cam Heyward
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Q: Describe your mentality on the pitch.

A: I will give you 110%. I’m one of those people for whom I won’t settle for less from others, but for me, I have to play with a lot of energy and I have to set the tone.

Q: If you could choose the mastermind of one defensive lineman in NFL history, who would it be?

A: Well, I can already do a little, I can talk to “Mean” Joe [Greene] sometimes. I think he’s the ultimate defensive lineman. Apart from him, I would say Reggie White.

Q: What’s the best advice Mean Joe has ever given you?

A: Just to be rough with your hands. And it’s funny when he said it, because I remember when he first shook my hand, his hand almost engulfed mine (laughs). This guy’s hands are huge. But there is a level of violence that you have to play when playing defensive line. And he was always keen to be the troublemaker and to be able to affect the game.

Q: Which quarterback in NFL history do you wish you had fired?

A: Surprisingly, I never had the chance to fire Peyton [Manning]. And I remember my dad playing with Peyton Manning in his freshman year. I was lucky enough to meet Peyton when I was younger, and again when I played in the league. It was probably one of the only ones I missed when I fired.

Q: Why does Pittsburgh love Ben Roethlisberger right now?

A: Pittsburgh loves Ben Roethlisberger because in the last 18 years this guy gave away two Super Bowls and beat his body trying to make sure he played for Pittsburgh. Few people could sustain a career like his, take all the bumps and bruises and deliver those two-minute clutches at the end of a game. He’s one of those Steelers legends who just needs to have the ball in his hands.

Cam Heyward on the Steelers playoffs, father, Ben Roethlisberger

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Cam Heyward tackles Justin Herbert
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Q: What makes TJ Watt, TJ Watt?

A: I think the thing that stands out with TJ, his relentless movements and righteous, relentless effort. And his grip when it comes to being a complete player in those critical moments. Often we needed him on those third downs, or he gets a strip-sack at the most opportune time. When you have a guy like that who is able to rise to those occasions, it’s pretty special.

Q: What makes Mike Tomlin, Mike Tomlin?

A: His consistency in his message in that he is able to challenge players individually and collectively. He gets the most out of his group.

Q: Describe Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes.

A: Man, lightning. He can make lightning happen on every play. He’s one of those people who is electric and can throw the ball all over the court. They’re never really offside. It’s an 11 man job to stop a guy like that, and then again, 11 men can’t do the job.

Q: Describe former teammate Ryan Shazier.

A: A warrior.

Q: What was that moment like on the pitch when he suffered his spinal contusion four years ago?

A: It broke my heart. See, really my brother, unable to get up, and lying there, it was one of those scenes I will never forget. But after that, to see him work and say to me: “I’m going to walk again”, it was quite special.

Q: Steve McLendon, former Jets nose tackle and now Buccaneers?

A: Underrated, but great locker room guy.

Q: Former Steelers linebacker James Harrison?

A powerful. This guy never missed a workout, I’ll say that. Incredible career, because no one had even heard of James Harrison, and being, right now, the Steelers’ all-time sack leader is one of the greatest things in the world. He has one of the greatest games [100-yard pick-six in Super Bowl XLIII win over the Cardinals] in Super Bowl history.

Q: What was Antonio Brown like as a teammate?

A: You know, I didn’t have many problems with Antonio Brown. It’s unfortunate how it ended here in Pittsburgh. I wish he was still a Pittsburgh Steeler all those years ago.

Q: How about Le’Veon Bell?

A: Same thing. These guys were great players for us. We won a lot of games and they’re great Steelers because when they came on the court there was probably no one to stop those two.

Q: You have suffered from asthma since childhood.

A: It’s something I had to learn to deal with. At first, my mother would tell me, “Don’t be a hero. It’s not something to play with. I’m one of those guys who tends to push the limits and always try to go hard, but it’s about learning my body and understanding that maybe I need a break, or that I have to take my inhaler before I go out, or my nebuliser. When I was a kid I was in the hospital sometimes, but I learned to deal with that and it’s not a crutch for me, it’s just something I had to learn to play with.

Cam Heyward on the Steelers playoffs, father, Ben Roethlisberger

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Cameron Heyward makes a tackle.
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Q: Describe your grandmother.

A: She’s great. She lives in the city of Pittsburgh. She was a Steeler fan before I was a Steeler, and she’s been sending me Steeler stuff since I was little. But she was a teacher here, and I love her to death.

Q: What was your level of basketball player?

A: I loved basketball growing up. I was going to play in college [Ohio State] until we got to the Nationals my freshman year, then I was exhausted after that, so I completely quit that after that.

Q: What matters more to you: the Pro Bowl or the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award?

A: Both are two things I have strived for in this league. The Pro Bowls are awesome. The really cool thing is the Walter Payton Man of the Year because what he stands for. It’s an award that represents a man who was great on the pitch, but even better off the pitch, and he cared about a lot of people. And I want to be able to say it also for my career.

Q: How long do you want to play?

A: As long as my body stays healthy and I’m able to play at a high level, I think I can play a lot longer.

Q: Three guests?

A: LeBron [James]Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, my father.

Q: Favorite movies?

A: “Heavyweight” with Ben Stiller, “Cinderella Man”.

Q: Favorite actor?

A: Adam Sandler.

Q: Favorite actress?

A: Emma Stone.

Q: Favorite singer/artist?

A: Drake.

Q: Favorite meal?

A: Jambalaya.

Q: Why do Steelers fans travel so well?

A: In the 2000s, the Steelers were winning all those championships and you were either a Steelers fan or a Cowboys fan…or a Raiders fan. But, man, Steeler fans are everywhere. It’s funny, we only have games left on the road, and I just feel like Steelers fans are savoring those moments. They are the best traveling fans and they love to make noise wherever they go.

Q: How pumped up is your 6 year old Callen for this game?

A: My son is delighted. I told him I was playing with Najee Harris. I showed him a picture of a Super Bowl trophy, he said, “Do you have a chance of winning this?” I was like, “Yeah, but there’s a lot of work behind it, and so you can’t ignore anybody.” My Don really likes Najee and likes the way he directs the ball, and I told him that I know Najee and he was very excited (laughs).

Q: Tell me about Najee.

A: A full running back. And I’m not just talking on the pitch. He is a complete person. He is wise beyond his years. He’s going to be a terror in this league as long as he wants to play. He has a good head on his shoulders, he runs the ball hard, catches the ball. There’s nothing this guy can’t do.

Q: What did you think of Roethlisberger saying, “We don’t have a chance?”

A: I think he was referring to the fact that we are seen as having no chance. And the way we see it, nobody’s giving us a chance, but we’re going to be ready to play.

Q: What would be your message to Steelers Nation?

A: Be loud. And we’re going to give it our all.

Cam Heyward on the Steelers playoffs, father, Ben Roethlisberger

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