The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers will fail to get a long-term contract in place with Cameron Heyward before the start of the regular season.
Explanation: While the Steelers have a number of significant players heading into the final year of their current contracts, Cameron Heyward is by far the most prominent, and the most realistic to receive a new contract before the start of the season. However, with only weeks to go, Heyward didn’t sound very confident yesterday about the state of that conversation.
Ordinarily, the Steelers very rarely fail to keep the players around that they want to keep around, as long as there isn’t a hangup about signing bonuses, since the organization’s practices with regards to signing bonuses are less robust than most of the rest of the league.
But these are not normal circumstances. Right now, Heyward is not counting against the 2021 salary cap, which could be nearly $15 million less than the 2020 cap, and they are already millions over the 2021 cap floor that was agreed to.
Heyward has already acknowledged that economic concerns stemming from the impact of Covid-19 stymied contract talks throughout the offseason. He did say that the two sides are talking, but you can’t change the salary cap. The Steelers lost a number of important players the last time the salary cap was scaled back about a decade ago, so we already know this is in the realm of possibility.
The Steelers may not negotiate contracts once the regular season begins, but the regular season doesn’t begin until the games do, and that has seen contracts being wrapped up on the plane ride over to the season opener, as was the case with Troy Polamalu one time.
Contracts can get wrapped up in a hurry, and there is a clear intention on the part of both parties as it concerns Heyward about wanting to keep this thing going. Pittsburgh can actually lower its cap hit with a Heyward restructure depending upon how they manage it, so that’s another incentive to getting the deal done and keeping one of their best players around for the next few years.