On July 13, 2022, Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Cam Heyward dropped the first episode of his new podcast (Not Just Football with Cam Heyward), in which he called himself “part of the New Media” and promised to “bring a different insight than the usual analysts or someone who is retired.”
Heyward’s new venture — produced in conjunction with ESPN and Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions — was announced in mid-June. Details were scarce at the time, but judging by episode No. 1, it appears that friend Hayden Walsh will be co-hosting, and that the podcast will feature coverage of a diverse array of sports, including basketball and baseball.
Up front, Walsh asked Heyward: “How honest are you going to be about your team and their issues and things that go on during the season?
“I’m not a true media person,” he answered. “The things I can share, I will, but I have to protect my players as well. That is not my position to leak what play we’re running, or tell you what this guy ate, or tell you an injury.”
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Heyward Cites NBA Star Draymond Green as an Inspiration
Heyward went on to point to current NBA player Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors) as an inspiration for launching his own show. Green, a four-time NBA champion and former NBA Defensive Player of the Year, hosts a podcast (The Draymond Green Show) that provides him with a platform to air his “unfiltered thoughts” on everything from the NBA, to music, technology and the media.
It’s worth noting that Green was sharply criticized for podcasting during Golden State’s postseason run to the NBA title this spring, criticism that peaked during the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics, when Green was recording a podcast after each and every game. This in spite of the fact that he was frequently struggling on the court, and had what he described as “one of the worst games” of his career in Game 3.
Heyward dismissed the idea that podcasting will be a distraction for him or interfere with his preparation.
“I definitely want to give a big shout-out to Draymond because the thing I love: Everybody always says that he should just shut up and play basketball and when he was in the (NBA) Finals he shouldn’t have done his podcast. Like, he had 24 hours in a day, and I’m pretty sure he took care of his body, he made sure he watched his film and he practiced. Why can’t he take an hour out of his time to go on to do a podcast and literally vent to the world what he saw. I don’t see a problem with that,” offered Heyward.
Hayden Walsh: ‘You Are Such a Sourpuss After a Loss’
Heyward insists that — win or lose — he won’t be doing any postgame podcasts.
“Hell no, that’s not going down…. I am complete crap after a game. I don’t think anybody would want to listen to me for literally 45 minutes to an hour,” he admitted.
“You after a loss would be so funny,” chimed in Walsh. “Oh my gosh, dude. You are such a sourpuss after a loss.”
That said, there’s no doubt a portion of Pittsburgh’s fan base that would rather not see Heyward podcasting at all, not because it’s a distraction to him personally, but because it has the potential to create distractions for teammates and coaches. Or, worse yet, provide added motivation for opposing players. Recall how Jordan Poyer of the Bills said in December 2020 that a JuJu Smith-Schuster TikTok offended Buffalo’s players and gave them “extra fire” to beat the Steelers.
Of course, Heyward isn’t anything like the self-promotional Smith-Schuster (now with the Kansas City Chiefs), nor is he like Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool, who co-produced Smith-Schuster’s logo dancing TikTok videos. Still, the potential exists for controversy, and fans might be quick to find fault with the podcasting if Heyward suddenly fails to play up to expectations.
Cam Heyward: ‘I Think (Aaron Donald is) 1A, and I Think I’m 1A’
Those expectations are pretty high, too. During his inaugural podcast, Heyward reiterated his dissatisfaction with how he was ranked in a recent ESPN survey, which labeled him as the fifth-best defensive tackle in the NFL. That prompted the former 1st-round pick to re-state his belief that the pecking order should be “Cam and Aaron and (then) everybody else.”
“I think he’s 1A, and I think I’m 1A,” said Heyward, referring to Los Angeles Rams All-Pro Aaron Donald, who has thrice won NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
“For me personally I think I’m at the top of my game and I’m a complete player…. When I step on the field. I think I’m the top guy at my position,” he concluded, before re-ordering the names on ESPN’s Top 5.
“Jeffrey Simmons had a great year and I would say he is probably (No. 3), with Chris Jones next and then DeForest Buckner,” concluded Heyward.
The Steelers can only hope that Heyward can continue to play at the All-Pro level he maintained in 2021. He is under contract with the Steelers for three more seasons and recently indicated that he hopes to play five more years, until the age of 38.
In April 2022, CBS Sports named Heyward the best player ever drafted No. 31 overall.
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