Earlier in training camp, Cameron Heyward was asked about the status of his contract extension negotiations with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and his assessment essentially was that it ‘takes two to tango’. In other words, Heyward’s party was much more engaged in getting it done, from his perspective, obviously impacted by the financial instability of the Covid-19 pandemic.
While he said that he would love to stay in Pittsburgh—having done so for the first decade of his career already, heading into 2020—he also reflected an understanding of the reality that he could, in theory, wind up somewhere else. The Steelers are already over whatever the cap will probably be next year, after all, without him even being on the books.
Another player whose contract expires after this season is JuJu Smith-Schuster, their second-round pick in 2017 and a Pro Bowler in 2018. Coming off a dismal and injury-riddled year in 2019, the wide receiver is looking for a big rebound.
He also knows, pretty much, that they’re not even going to talk about extending his contract. Yet nevertheless, according to his recent Ask Me Anything session on Reddit, he still believes that he is going to be in the ‘Burgh for the long haul.
Spending a portion of his day fielding a variety of questions from fans on the platform, many of which of course were nonsense or pertained to things that had nothing to do with football, he was at one point asked if he sees himself retiring a Steeler. He gave only a one-word answer: “yes”.
While that doesn’t necessarily mean that he is going to get a new deal with the team next year or that he is going to spend his entire career with the Steelers, chances are good that his answer does reflect a belief that a Steelers jersey is the only one that he is going to wear in the NFL.
That would take a lot of doing, considering their salary cap situation, and the fact that some really significant names like Heyward, James Conner, Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, and Zach Banner will also all be scheduled to hit free agency. Oh, and someone named Bud Dupree.
Pittsburgh will inevitably try to retain a subset of this group. To lose all of them would be a huge drain of talent. That makes it less likely that they could afford to earmark big money for a wide receiver when they’ve been routinely stockpiling pedigreed talent at the position.
Among the other questions that he answered were whether or not he had a preference between playing inside and outside (he doesn’t) and who is the most difficult player he’s gone up against, listing Marlon Humphrey of the Baltimore Ravens. Perhaps he’ll be in Baltimore next year.