Defensive end Cam Heyward of the Pittsburgh Steelers may have been overlooked in the Pro Bowl voting. But that didn’t stop listeners and readers of the Talk of Fame Network from recognizing him for an even higher honor.
We asked our followers in last week’s Talk of Fame Network poll to select the 2017 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and Heyward won out on a ballot that included seven other players who did get voted to the Pro Bowl. Heyward received 31.4 percent of the vote to outdistance Jacksonville pass rusher Calais Campbell at 21.6 percent and Carolina middle linebacker Luke Kuechly at 20.9 percent.
Rams DT Aaron Donald, Vikings DE Everson Griffen, Jaguars CB A.J. Bouye, Cardinals pass rusher Chandler Jones and Ravens inside linebacker C.J. Moseley rounded out the field.
Not surprisingly, the voting was split among the three Talk of Fame Network hosts Ron Borges, Rick Gosselin and Clark Judge. Borges voted Kuechly, Gosselin Campbell and Judge Jones.
“Chandler Jones leads the league in sacks and TFLs and plays hard -- despite lining up for a team that has no hope of going to the playoffs and played most of the season without a quarterback,” Judge said.
“Kuechly gets my vote,” Borges said, “but Cam Heyward is about to set a sack record for 3-4 DEs. That guy is a LOAD!”
A load, indeed. Heyward has been the cornerstone of the NFL’s fourth-ranked defense. He’s a pass rusher, but not an edge rusher. That’s not a luxury a strongside end in a 3-4 scheme has. He has to wade through more traffic inside on the way to the quarterback. But Heyward still has a career-high 12 sacks to rank fifth in the NFL. He also has forced two fumbles and recovered one for the AFC North champion Steelers.
Jones leads the NFL with 15 sacks, followed by Campbell at 14 ½. Griffin is fourth with 13 and Donald ninth with 11. Mosley ranks eighth in the NFL in tackles with 126 and Kuechly 11th with 115. Both play for Top 10 defenses. Bouye ranks second in the NFL in both interceptions (six) and passes defenses (24) in Jacksonville’s top-ranked pass defense.