One of our biggest articles in recent months was the one in which Cameron Heyward talked about the fact that he has to mentally prepare himself for the possibility of his not finishing his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 10th-year veteran is in the final year of his contract and is scheduled to be a free agent in 2020.
But as I wrote in that article, the odds of him actually playing somewhere else next year at incredibly low. There is nothing to read into the fact that the Steelers have not worked out a contract extension with him yet. Historically, the vast majority of their extensions are done in training camp. Even last year, Joe Haden got his extension in shortly before the regular season began.
And that was even less of a certainty than is Heyward getting a new deal. Somebody recently asked Bob Labriola about this in his latest installment of Asked and Answered, and his answer is as good as any that I would give about the odds of him returning.
“I would put the chances at 100 percent”, he wrote in response to the question. “Cam Heyward, in my opinion, is one of the great players/people in franchise history, and I cannot imagine a realistic scenario where a contract extension doesn’t happen”.
It’s really not a salary cap issue, for starters, unlike what would be the case if they were to work on extensions for players like James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster, who are playing on relatively modest rookie deals.
According to Over the Cap, Heyward already has a cap hit of over $13 million for 2020. Of that total, $9.5 million of that is in base salary. While he would be due for a substantial pay increase—his previous deal signed in 2015 averaged about $10.5 million in new money—he could easily have a lower cap hit for this season on an extension by reducing his base salary to the minimum, which would be offset by a substantial signing bonus.
This is a guy who really doesn’t have any interest in playing anywhere else. He would love nothing more than to play his entire career in Pittsburgh, or so it seems. He is their defensive captain. He is their player representative for the union. He has local area ties. This is where his children were raised. This is where his father played his college ball.
If you are one of the people worrying about Heyward’s future in Pittsburgh—and for those who will ask, yes, there are many out there, as we’ve seen responding to our Twitter account—my advice to you is to listen to Labriola. It’s virtually inconceivable that he doesn’t have an extension wrapped up by the start of the 2020 season. There’s just no reason to get it done now while nothing is happening.