Pro Football Focus ranks Cameron Heyward third among interior defensive linemen in the league
Updated: May 28, 2021
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In the last few weeks, Pro Football Focus has been ranking the 32 best players at each respective position and when it came to their interior defensive linemen rankings, they had Steelers defensive tackle Cameron Heyward ranked third, behind just Chris Jones of the Chiefs and three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner Aaron Donald of the Rams, who was ranked No. 1.
"Heyward’s play has only improved with age," Ben Linsey of PFF wrote. "He has logged 3,416 defensive snaps over the last four seasons (fourth at the position), and his 91.9 PFF grade falls short of just Aaron Donald, Chris Jones and Fletcher Cox over that span. It’s difficult to find many faults in his overall game, with him posting both run-defense and pass-rush grades above 89.0 since 2017. Heyward, along with two other Steelers on this list, gives Pittsburgh one of the most formidable defensive fronts in the NFL."
Heyward has been consistent as they come over the last four seasons, being named to the Pro Bowl in four consecutive years and nominated as first-team All-Pro in 2017 and 2019. Heyward was also named second-team All-Pro in 2020.
Donald is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year award winner and is one of the best players in the game, so Donald being ranked No. 1 among interior defensive linemen is a no-brainer. Jones has been very productive for the Chiefs over the last few seasons as well, ranking second in the NFL in both sacks (32.0) and quarterback hits (49) since 2018. So, PFF got the top three interior defensive linemen right and it's hard to argue the order of how they have them ranked. Heyward has more Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro nominations than Jones, who hasn't been named first-team All-Pro yet. However, Jones is five years younger than Heyward and will turn 27 in July.