Cameron Heyward likely to miss 2-3 weeks

For the first time since he was drafted in the first round in 2011, Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward will miss a game.

Heyward left Sunday’s 31-13 win over the Jets with a hamstring injury, and according to Dale Lolley of the Observer-Reporter he’ll miss two or three games. His streak of 45 consecutive starts will come to an end.

The Steelers’ defense has been in transition over the past few years, but Heyward has been a rock throughout the process. He has led the Steelers in sacks in each of the last two years, with seven and a half in 2014 and seven last year. Despite playing with a high-ankle sprain since August, Heyward had three sacks in the Steelers’ 43-14 Week 4 win over the Chiefs. His four pass breakups this season put him on pace for a career high in that category.

Because the Steelers play in their base defense so infrequently, there won’t necessarily be one starter who spells Heyward. His role will be filled by a combination of third-year man Stephon Tuitt, who has made some impact plays, rookie nose tackle Javon Hargrave and free-agent pickup Ricardo Matthews.

The Steelers (4-1) go to Miami (1-4) Sunday. In Week 7, they host New England (4-1) in a game that ultimately could determine home-field advantage in the playoffs. They likely won’t have Heyward available for that game. But they have a bye in Week 8 and there’s a chance Heyward could return in Week 9 at Baltimore.