Doing so would, obviously, cost Pittsburgh more upfront now, but Heyward is an ascending player who has already said publicly that he would like to remain with the Steelers for the rest of his career.
Fowler mentions that the Steelers have a history of negotiating long-term term deals for players entering the final year of their rookie agreements. With this in mind, Fowler wouldn’t be surprised if contract talks pick up in the coming months.
While Heyward’s position is important on the field, it’s not among the highest in terms of annual salary. Fowler notes that the top-five highest paid defensive ends in a 3-4 system — J.J. Watt, Calais Campbell, Jurrell Casey, Jason Hatcher and Desmond Bryant — received an average of $14.66 million in terms of guaranteed money.
Pittsburgh elected to pick up Heyward’s fifth-year option, which will run them $6.969 million for the 2015 season. This salary is only guaranteed for injury and won’t prevent them from negotiating a long-term contract.
Heyward, 26, appeared in all 16 games and totaled 59 tackles, five sacks and a fumble recovery for the Steelers. Pro Football Focus rated him as the No. 18 defensive end in 3-4 defense last season.
We’ll have more regarding a potential contract extension for Heyward as the news is available.