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Cam Heyward Expected Pickett Vs. Rudolph Battle, Excited For Russell Wilson: ‘Knows How To Beat Top Competition’


It wasn’t just fans on the outside who thought the Pittsburgh Steelers would run it back with QBs Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph atop their depth chart, setting up a camp battle for the best man to win. Those on the team, including Cam Heyward, figured that was the course the team would take. How quickly things changed.

Instead of that plan, the Steelers revamped their entire quarterback room. Gone are Mitch Trubisky, Pickett, and Rudolph, all through different avenues. Trubisky was released, Pickett traded, and Rudolph left via free agency. In their place are Russell Wilson, Justin Fields, and Kyle Allen with Wilson and Fields battling at the top.

Reacting to a topsy-turvy offseason at the position on The Rich Eisen Show Wednesday, Heyward admitted the moves surprised him, though he’s excited for the new-look room.

“We were losing quarterbacks left and right,” Heyward told guest host Jim Jackson. “Mason Rudolph had just left. Mitch Trubisky was gone. I thought there was gonna be a competition there between [Rudolph] and Kenny.”

Trubisky was released shortly after the Super Bowl, one of several cuts the team made to trim roster fat and save cap space. Pittsburgh expressed a desire to retain Rudolph and returning to Pittsburgh always seemed like a likely outcome. But once Wilson showed an interest in the Steelers and the feeling became mutual (with Heyward helping to recruit Wilson), they pivoted. Wilson signed for one year in the hopes of bouncing back after two bumpy years in Denver.

For Heyward, Wilson’s veteran presence and experience will do a young offense good. As will his production.

“But now going forward, you just look for the leadership he’s had. A guy who’s been in Seattle, who’s won games, won the Super Bowl already,” Heyward said. “Didn’t have the best time in Denver but I think he’s a hungry guy who’s ready to prove a lot of people wrong.”

Wilson has what Heyward and most of the roster is chasing – a ring. Pittsburgh is looking to break its extreme playoff drought, one of the league’s longest active losing streaks, and a passing game that can at least hit the NFL’s baseline is critical to that. Though the model was worked well enough in the regular season, trying to win every playoff game 17-10 isn’t sustainable. With Wilson and the players who are returning, Heyward is hopeful the offense will put up points.

“But I think on the opposite side of the ball, we have so many great weapons,” he said. “Some of them are younger so having a more established guy who has been through it is gonna benefit the group.”

Pittsburgh’s scoring offense has ranked in the 20s the past three seasons and regressed year over year. In 2021, they were 21st in scoring. In 2022, they fell to 26th, and in 2023, they bottomed out to 28th. The Steelers might not need to be a top-five offense to win the division and go on a run, but Heyward admitted it’d be nice to see the offense show it can win games when the defense has an off day.

“I think it’s about growth,” he said. “Whether it’s adjusting to the needs of the game. Or understanding that, ‘Hey, we might need you to go on a run a little bit. We might need you to score some points.’”

That was the boost Rudolph provided off the bench last year, leading the Steelers to their only 30-point scoring outputs of the season. They resulted in the team’s lone comfortable win, blowing out Cincinnati, and holding off a Seattle Seahawks team on the road in a game where Pittsburgh’s run defense wilted. Even in a less-than-stellar season, Wilson’s Broncos finished 19th in scoring offense and routinely broke the 20-point barrier. Their season included a win over the Kansas City Chiefs, a point Heyward stressed.

“Not many people beat Patrick Mahomes last year but Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos did last year,” he said. “I know it’s not one guy that gets it done but Russ has done it in this game and knows how to beat top competition.”

Denver split their series against the Chiefs, beating them 24-9 in Week 8. Their run game did the heavy lifting, rushing 40 times in the victory, but Wilson was efficient with three red zone touchdown passes.

Pittsburgh will face plenty of competition in 2024. Not only from its own division, the toughest in football where all four teams finished on the right side of .500, but a highly competitive AFC with teams like the Houston Texans emerging as serious contenders. The Steelers will need to be at their best and Wilson, hopefully, can boost the offense while Heyward’s defense holds up its end of the bargain.

Catch the whole clip with Cam Heyward below.

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