Cameron Heyward's father, the late former NFL running back Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, used to appear in soap commercials. Now, it's the younger Heyward who is beginning to feel a lot more comfortable in his own skin.

A week and a half into his second NFL training camp with the Steelers, Cameron Heyward is one of the players who consistently stands out during practices at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. The defensive lineman was chosen in the first round of the draft last season.

"He's going to be a great one," offensive guard Ramon Foster said. "You see it every day in practice."

At 6-5, 288 pounds and with an Ohio State pedigree, Heyward is being groomed by the Steelers to evolve into a disruptive force along the defensive line. The pressing question is, when?

Linemen typically need a year or two to learn defensive coordinator's Dick LeBeau's system. It's not as simple as merely turning loose, using instinct and getting after the quarterback, as perhaps some 4-3 ends can do once they arrive in the NFL. Steelers ends, in layman's terms, are more there just to eat up blockers and take up space.

It was obvious as last season went on that Heyward was settling more into his role, and his snaps increased later in the campaign.

That development is continuing this preseason.

"I just feel more comfortable with what I'm doing and more comfortable in my technique," Heyward said. "I know what to expect."

Ziggy Hood was a first-round pick of the Steelers two years prior to Heyward, and like him, he did not start any games his rookie season, either. But Hood became a starter midway through the following season and has remained one since (he initially received the job due to an injury to Aaron Smith -- but Hood's play has been commensurate with that of a starter since he's been getting the reps).

The Steelers hope Heyward's chance doesn't come via an injury to, say, Brett Keisel or Hood. But there is growing confidence that Heyward will be ready if needed.

"We'll see; it's not my decision," Heyward said of the prospect of increased playing time. "I just have to go out there and prove myself when I'm out there; we'll let the coaches make that decision."

Either way, the steady rotation of bodies along the defensive line means that, at a minimum, Heyward will get his time on the field. If he emerges as a reliable presence, the potential exists for the Steelers to have a deep and talented defensive line.

"We've got a lot of guys who contribute, a lot of guys who can take over a lot of blocks and make a lot of plays," Heyward said. "I'm excited about this year."

Follow Steelers reporter Chris Adamski on Twitter @CBSSportsNFLPIT and @BuzzsawPGH.