Rookie LG Volson makes his debut against Steeler great Heyward


Sunday’s marquee game in the Steelers’ home opener (1 p.m. – Cincinnati Local 12) pits new Bengals right tackle La’el Collins against NFL Defensive Player of the Year in defense, TJ Watt.

But most intriguing and the showdown with perhaps the biggest impact finds rookie Volson making his NFL debut against Heyward, the future Pro Football Hall-of-Famer who has the most tackles and passes defended by a tackle. in the NFL for the past four seasons.

A football league graduate of nine high school students from North Dakota in a county with a population slightly larger than the 3,500 capacity of Joe Burrow Stadium in Athens, Ohio, Volson could end up playing in front of the most fans on Sunday. watching a football game in Cincinnati.

And if Heyward is not enough, there is also Ogunjobi on certain passages. Larry O., as he is known in these parts, is making his first start for the Steelers on the same field he broke his foot in last year’s final game here at Paycor in the Wild Card, finishing his only season with the Bengals with seven monstrous sacks.

The Steelers may not have Big Ben. But they’re still the Steelers and that means they’ve led the NFL in sacks the past five seasons. In his 11 seasons, Heyward peppered the Bengals with 10.5 sacks, 19 quarterback hits and seven passes defended, his record against any team.

“Obviously he’s earned our trust and the trust of the organization,” said Ted Karras, the new veteran center making his debut with the Bengals alongside Volson. “He’s got kind of a quick baptism against Cam Heyward here. I think he’s up to the challenge.

“Cam’s been playing for so long. You really can’t throw anything at him that he hasn’t seen. He’s a really big man. He plays really hard and he plays the game the right way. It’s always fun to go up against guys of that stature and see what you’re made of.”

Volson is made of the hearty stuff of northern North Dakota (“two-thirds of the way to Canada”) and the Bengals thought he was tough enough to be taken in the fourth round after playing for four national champions in the state of North Dakota. When news broke last month that he had won the left guard position, his top coach at Drake-Anamoose High School texted congratulations.

Volson’s response came as no surprise to Chris Arnold.

“Just keep chopping wood,” says Arnold. “That’s what he said. And that’s how he’s always been. He’s always going to try to win the job.”

If Sunday is a big deal in the Ohio Valley, try the whole state of North Dakota.

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