There aren’t many in the recent history of the organization who could be fairly argued as being the greatest member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. That’s because 10th-year veteran defensive lineman Cameron Heyward has set the bar so high, not just with his play on the field, but with his character and leadership off of it.
The team’s first-round pick in 2011 out of Ohio State, he has truly blossomed as both a player and a person into a true ambassador not just for the Steelers’ brand, but for the game of football itself. He speaks thoughtfully and passionately about a variety of subjects, but always while bleeding black and gold.
Heyward was rewarded with a big, six-year contract in 2015 as he entered his fifth-year option season, and he has rewarded the team, named to the Pro Bowl in each of the past three seasons and earning two nods to the All-Pro team as well, both as a first-team member.
Now, he is entering the final year of his contract, however. Mark Kaboly recently asked him about that for The Athletic. “Man, I hate talking about it in the past tense like I am already gone, but I have to be ready for the reality if that comes about”, he said. “I love being a Pittsburgh Steeler, but if my time is up, my time is up”.
It’s hard to fathom the possibility of Heyward playing in another uniform, but stranger things have happened. In more recent years, Pittsburgh has managed to get a lot of its legendary players to close out their careers here, like Troy Polamalu and Hines Ward, but you never know what can happen. I’m not saying he’s going to go Antonio Brown, but we thought he would be a lifelong Steeler too.
He did tell The Athletic that there were some early preliminary talks with the front office about a contract extension, and that they expressed a desire to get things done. Personally speaking, I find it incredibly unlikely that they don’t get a deal done.
There is plenty of time for them to work something out. The Steelers typically don’t do serious negotiations until the start of training camp in most cases, and right now, Bud Dupree is the priority because of the deadline that is now approaching only a month away.
“We have talked about it, but things happen”, Heyward admitted. “I don’t know if their minds have changed. I understand their policy and respect their policy. If I have to play this year and go into next year as a free agent, then so be it. That’s not going to deter me from being the best teammate, the best person, the best player I can be”.
The Steelers do have a history of giving extensions to older linemen, having done so with both Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel, and he has clearly been a player at the same level, at the same age. Frankly, nobody should worry about his future in Pittsburgh. At least not any time soon. Maybe in September if a deal isn’t done by then.