Manchester City sent the 20-year-old midfielder out on loan to Sheffield United in the summer and McAtee got off to a rocky start at Bramall Lane.
However, the midfielder has managed to impress his boss Heckingbottom in recent months and is going from strength to strength.
The Blades boss pointed out that McAtee has understood that he cannot wait for the ball to come to him, but rather has to get himself into situations where he can influence the game off the ball.
Heckingbottom also stated that the Manchester City loanee now understands his defensive duties and how he needs to participate in recovering the ball.
“We have spoken a lot about him without the ball and how he has improved, but the one thing he has improved on now is he understands that he can’t just wait for the ball to come”, Heckingbottom told Yorkshire Live.
“He has to participate in all the other bits when we haven’t got the ball.
“How we press, how we recover and then generally he will find himself in better positions to receive it.
“I think that is what’s improved.“
McAtee has featured 29 times for Sheffield United in the Championship this season and has scored five goals while laying on two assists.