It’s easier on the outside to look at a situation and see an outcome as obvious. When the outcome involves you, and you have a role to play in that outcome, and it affects you so intimately, it’s much harder to be confident in what the end result would be.
That was the reality that Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward had been dealing with throughout this offseason, knowing that he was heading into the final year of his contract and facing uncertainty as to whether or not he and the team would be able to work out an extension before the regular season began.
“To be honest, 48 hours ago, I could’ve thought something different”, he said earlier today, after having signed a new four-year extension. “This was a testament to a lot of people getting this done, whether it was my agent, Mr. Rooney, Kevin Colbert, Omar Khan, and Coach T. This was a combination of a lot of different people getting this done”.
“There was a lot of doubt in my head for a good bit”, he admitted. “We’re dealing with the pandemic—we’re not dealing with normal circumstances. You just never know. You can ask my family, I’ve been a bit of a headache. This is something we’ve had to build towards, but I’m glad to say it got done”.
Multiple times throughout this offseason, both Art Rooney II and Kevin Colbert acknowledged that the financial uncertainties of the pandemic were affecting their ability to do business as usually, particularly as it concerned getting extensions done. This one came down closer to the wire than most, and Heyward felt it.
“Obviously, we were all happy to get this done, but this took a lot of work to get done”, he said. “When I say 48 hours, I feel like there was a time this was almost dead, to be completely honest. I was getting ready for farewells, getting ready for my farewell tour, this being my last ride”.
He is not the first Steeler to have been in the same boat, especially those who actually played out their last deal, such as Ramon Foster. There was a time that Ryan Clark was on his way to Miami to sign with the Dolphins in free agency before making one last call to stay in Pittsburgh.
“I couldn’t see myself being anywhere else, but I had to be ready for that reality”, Heyward admitted. And again, in retrospect, and from the outside, perhaps it’s easy to say that of course this would get done. But if you’re Heyward, you know that you can’t just take it for granted that things will happen.
They did, however, and he’s under contract through his age-35 season in 2024, among the highest-paid players at his position, and having signed the biggest contract by a defensive player over 30 in NFL history.