It might not reflect on the stat sheet but defensive end Cam Heyward has become an integral part of the Steelers' defense.

The former first-round draft pick got off to a slow start during his first two seasons as he tried to settle into a role that often changed. He has become more effective now that his job is clearly defined.

Dick LeBeau the Steelers' defensive coordinator has asked — and sometimes demanded —that Heyward capitalize on his strength and quickness to flush quarterbacks out of the pocket.

More important Heyward has gained the confidence of the coaching staff. He's been tossed into the fray to spell starters Ziggy Hood and Brett Keisel who are part of a rotation designed to save their legs during the second half of physically demanding games.

“With Cam coming in it takes a lot of pressure off us knowing that we don't have to play 50 or possibly 70 snaps a game” Hood said. “We have guys who can keep us fresh and there won't be a drop off.”

Heyward who has been on the field nearly half of the Steelers' 132 defensive snaps has a stiff challenge awaiting him Sunday night at Heinz Field when the Steelers (0-2) face the Chicago Bears (2-0).

The Bears' offensive line which includes rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills has allowed quarterback Jay Cutler to be sacked just once. As a result Cutler has had plenty of time to spot receiver Brandon Marshall downfield.

The residual effect of Cutler's consistency and near-flawless play is that defenses are hesitant to crowd the line scrimmage to stop running back Matt Forte.

The Steelers are counting on Heyward to defend the run and pressure Cutler. There were signs of growth during Monday's 20-10 loss to Cincinnati as he applied constant pressure on quarterback Andy Dalton.

“It's helped that guys like Ziggy and (linebacker) Lawrence (Timmons) have shown me how to play in this defense” Heyward said. “I've benefited from their input so now I feel like I can contribute.