Connor Heyward learns the art of the jamming drill
“Scramble drill” wasn’t a much-used phrase on the Pittsburgh Steelers offense in recent years. Not when the ball goes out in 2.3 seconds, the fastest in the league, as he did with Ben Roethlisberger. Not when Roethlisberger became almost entirely a pocket passer, a clear change from what he was during Act I of his career. Now the Steelers have a group of mobile quarterbacks, those who want and can extend the game. And rookie Connor Heyward is learning to keep his head on a pivot to know where the quarterback is going. He spoke to reporters after practice today about improving chemistry with the quarterbacks once the game was down.
“To be an NFL quarterback in this league, you have to be able to run and play on the run,” he said via the Steelers team website. “And all three can. None of the rules change when it comes to a jamming exercise. When he jostles, you have to find space if you’re on that sideline. It’s a question of chemistry and just having a good idea of the game. If you’re on the pitch, the coaches have more confidence in you. »
The Steelers quarterbacks have moved a lot during this year’s camp, partly because of their natural running ability and partly because of a Steelers line that did a much better job of blocking the run than ‘protecting the passes. Some jamming exercises were out of necessity, not choice. Heyward has been one of the camp’s favorite targets, although he is looking for greater efficiency. In the past four public practices, Monday through Thursday, Heyward has achieved twelve goals as a team. Unfortunately, he’s only got five catches, which shows he’s still working on gaining chemistry with the Steelers’ new set of quarterbacks.
Used exclusively as a tight end, Heyward is often a target for scrambling, an underhand player trying to get or stay in the quarterback’s vision. In those moments, it’s less about coaching and more about instinct, being able to sense the weak spot in the zone, running away from men’s coverage and anticipating where the quarterback wants you to run. It’s something that’s likely to happen often in preseason action when the offenses, especially the offensive lines, are at their sloppiest. Mitch Trubusky and Kenny Pickett are good athletes. The same goes for Chris Oladokun, if he ends up seeing the pitch, that is.
The more chemistry Heyward shows with the Steelers passers, the better his chances of making the roster will be. Currently, he has the inside lane on the No. 3 tight end position behind Pat Freiermuth and Zach Gentry, but Heyward is still being pushed by Kevin Rader and Jace Sternberger, two players who have gotten stronger this week.