Cameron Heyward Seeking Two-Year Extension, Wants To Finish Career With Steelers

Cameron Heyward has made it known he wants another Steelers extension, and the team typically completes deals with its re-up candidates before Week 1. As of now, the standout defensive lineman remains tied to the four-year, $65.6MM contract he signed back in 2020.

The Steelers have Heyward tied to a $16MM base salary and $22.4MM cap number this year, with the deal expiring after the 2024 season. Coming off an injury-plagued season, Heyward has still been one of the best defensive linemen in Steelers history. He ripped off a run of six Pro Bowls and four All-Pro nods (three as a first-teamer) from 2017-22 and does not look to be planning a near-future retirement.

Heyward is believed to be targeting a two-year deal ahead of his age-35 season, according to The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly (subscription required). This comes after a Heyward comment in January that did not guarantee he would even return for the 2024 season. The 2011 first-round pick signing a fourth Steelers contract would drop his 2024 cap number, but no agreement appears imminent.

Heyward did, however, return to OTAs this week after missing some time due to this contract situation. And he has no designs on testing free agency in 2025.

There has been communication but nothing really to report on right now,” Heyward said of contract talks. “There are certain guys who are one-helmet guys. I want to be one of these one-helmet guys. There is a hunger and desire there, but that doesn’t mean hanging it up and calling it a career. I have more bullets to fire.”

Teaming with T.J. Watt to form one of the NFL’s best inside-outside pass-rushing duos in the modern era, Heyward said (via Kaboly) he is aiming to play through at least 2026. That would explain the two-year extension pursuit. It is not known what the Steelers have offered, if anything, at this point, but Heyward is coming off a down season.

The longtime interior D-lineman missed six games and underwent two surgeries — both groin procedures, the second of which coming just after the season — in a five-month span. Heyward finished last season with just two sacks and six tackles for loss, numbers out of step with the upper-echelon work he displayed in recent years. It would make sense if the Steelers were hesitant about authorizing another extension, seeing as Heyward’s production dipped during his injury-shortened season. Heyward is also the NFL’s oldest active D-lineman, though he is just two months older than the Saints’ Cameron Jordan.

The latter 2011 first-round draftee’s two-year, $26.5MM extension could be a roadmap for the Steelers, even if the two Cams do not function in the same role despite both technically labeled defensive ends. The Steelers’ 3-4 scheme features extensive inside-rushing work from Heyward, whereas Jordan has operated as an edge rusher throughout his career. Both Heyward and Jordan made the Pro Bowl each year from 2017-22.

The D-tackle market, after a 2023 boom that created a second tier and then this offseason’s Chris Jones and Christian Wilkins pacts, has changed dramatically since the Steelers extended Heyward in 2020. The impact defender — attached to a $16.4MM-per-year number — has dropped to 20th at his position in terms of AAV.

I am looking to be here,” Heyward said. “The value is what we decide, but I think, for me, I want to be valued at my position. I understand I came off a rough season, but I don’t think it is a step down of where I can play. I think when I’m at the top of my game, I’m still a top-five player at my position. I play the run and the pass and I bring leadership, and it’s not anything I discount.”

Unless a new deal comes together quickly, Kaboly adds Heyward is not certain to participate in Pittsburgh’s minicamp. The veteran will attend, however. He staged a hold-in back in 2020, as a new CBA with language designed to curb holdouts was ratified, before signing his four-year extension.

The Steelers have both Watt and Alex Highsmith signed to big-ticket deals, and Minkah Fitzpatrick remains tied to a top-three safety accord. The team gave Patrick Queen a three-year, $41MM contract in March. The team is saving considerable money at quarterback due to its Russell WilsonJustin Fields setup. With Diontae Johnson off the roster, no eight-figure-per-year contract is present on the offensive side of the ball for the Steelers.

This setup opens the door for defensive spending, but the Steelers’ front office will need to gauge how much more Heyward contributions it can expect as he aims to play into his late 30s.

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