Watch: Connor Heyward’s first TD as a Steeler also honors his father
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Before the NFL Week 13 showdown between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons took place, two brothers had been playing with each other throughout training camp, the preseason, and twelve weeks of regular season games. Those brothers, playing on opposite sides of the ball for the Steelers, respected their father’s legacy as a former pro football player… but more so, the man that he was.
As related by Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward after the game, in a Falcons jersey with their father’s number on it, he and his brother – tight end Connor Heyward – visited their father’s grave before the game.
Craig “Ironhead” Heyward was a bruising fullback who played with a ton of grit and heart – something the brothers have shown this season, together. The best season of their father’s 11-year NFL career was in Atlanta in 1995 when he earned a Pro Bowl appearance after rushing for 1,083 yards and six touchdowns while adding 350 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns. Unfortunately, Heyward died in 2006 (age 39) from an inoperable brain tumor and is buried in Atlanta suburb, Lawrenceville (Georgia).
During the game, both brothers made plays that were key to the Steelers beating Atlanta, but it was Connor who might be remembered most due to grabbing the lone touchdown for Pittsburgh – his first NFL “TD” – in the close game.
With 9:15 left in the second quarter, rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett was able to find tight end Pat Freiermuth on a pass that unbelievably was kept inbounds by the big second-year player for a 57-yard gain on just the third play of the drive. Following a false start penalty, the Steelers offense lined up at the Atlanta 17-yard line and took their shot. Heyward slipped behind the coverage and caught a perfectly placed rainbow of a pass over the defenders.
The drive was a four-play, 75-yard masterpiece.
The last time Connor Heyward was in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, he was playing for Michigan State and scored a touchdown in the 2021 Peach Bowl against Pitt.
“We got to share a moment with Dad, so I was pretty emotional when (Connor) got the touchdown. I don’t like to be Mr. Soppy, but that really hit me. Luckily there wasn’t a camera on me, because I was a mess.” – Cameron Heyward
It was the lone catch for the younger Heyward in the game, but the fact that it was a special moment was lost on no one. Outside of that touchdown, the Steelers relied on kicker Matthew Wright to put points on the scoreboard via field goals.
Defensively, the Steelers were gifted 1.0 sacks, a quarterback hit, a tackle for a loss, a pass defense, and four tackles from the elder Heyward to keep the Falcons from a win.