Though the Steelers and DL Cameron Heyward had some early contract talks, negotiations have gone quiet and Heyward is now uncertain if he will be in Pittsburgh beyond 2020.
“Man, I hate talking about it in the past tense like I am already gone, but I have to be ready for the reality if that comes about,” Heyward said via the Athletic’s Mark Kaboly. “I love being a Pittsburgh Steeler, but if my time is up, my time is up.”
Heyward is entering the final year of his deal in 2020. While he’s been a key player for a long time in Pittsburgh, questions about the future salary cap could be affecting his extension talks like they have others around the league
The Steelers generally have a policy that they don’t negotiate contracts in season, so the two sides have until Sept. 14 to agree to a new deal, otherwise Heyward is likely ticketed for free agency.
“We have talked about it (prior), but things happen,” Heyward said. “We haven’t had any talks as of late, and it may be due to the virus, I don’t know. I don’t know if their minds have changed. I understand their policy and respect their policy. If I have to play this year and go into next year as a free agent, then so be it. That’s not going to deter me from being the best teammate, the best person, the best player I can be.”
Heyward said the team has not talked with him about why negotiations have cut off. While he has been open about his goal of playing the rest of his career in Pittsburgh, his age is also likely going to be a sticking point in how long the team wants to sign him for.
There’s still plenty of time for the two sides to come to an agreement but Heyward isn’t taking anything for granted. If he gets close enough to free agency, he plans to listen to other offers.
“We (assume) something will get done, but assuming — I will always use that saying: If you assume, that makes an ass out of you and me,” Heyward said. “I have to be ready either way. I would love to be here for the rest of my career, and I feel I have plenty of good years ahead of me playing at a high level.”
Heyward, 31, is a former first-round pick of the Steelers back in 2011. He’s entering the final year of his six-year, $59.2 million contract that included $15 million guaranteed.
Heyward is set to make a base salary of $9.5 million in 2020.
In 2019, Heyward started all 16 games for the Steelers and recorded 83 tackles, nine sacks, one forced fumble, a recovery and six pass defenses. Pro Football Focus has him rated as the No. 2 interior defender out of 117 qualifying players.
We’ll have more on Heyward as the news is available.