While it’s yet to be seen if the Pittsburgh Steelers will be able to get defensive captain Cameron Heyward signed to a contract extension prior to the start of the 2020 regular season, it is starting to sound more and more like the team will do everything in their power to keep their former first-round draft pick in the fold past this season.
On Wednesday, Steelers team president Art Rooney II talked to several media members and at one point he was asked to comment on Heyward and a possible contract extension.
“No doubt, Cam has been an outstanding player for us on and off the field,” Rooney II said, according to Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “What he means in locker room is tremendous. That is why we’d love to keep him, extend his contract. Whether it’s before the season or after the season, he’s going to be one of our priorities to make sure he’s here next year as well.”
With the 2021 league-wide cap number likely to decrease some, and possibly as low as $175 million, it would probably be in the Steelers best interest to get Heyward signed to an extension prior to the start of the 2020 regular season and for several reasons. For starters, getting Heyward extended in the next 12 days would likely result in his 2020 salary cap charge dropping a little bit and the team could certainly use that extra room. Additionally, extending Heyward now would make it easy to restructure his deal come March so that some additional cap space can be freed up for the 2021 league year.
Should the Steelers fail to get Heyward extended in the next 12 days, odds would then be good that no further contract negotiations would take place until after the 2020 season ends. If that’s what ultimately transpires, the Steelers would be in a rush to get Heyward signed to a new deal prior to having to place the franchise tag on him.
Heyward is scheduled to earn just $9.5 million in 2020, the final year of his current contract that he signed in 2015.
Based on what all Rooney and Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert both said about Heyward on Wednesday, I still think there’s an exceptionally good chance that Heyward signs an extension in the next 12 days. Even if he doesn’t, I think the Steelers will find a way to keep Heyward moving past the 2020 season and even that includes them first having to place the franchise tag on him.
“We left the door open,” Rooney said on Wednesday per Rutter. “If we can do some business, we will. I never try to speculate specifically or comment on negotiations with any particular player. We certainly left the door open here to see if anything can get done.”