Cameron Heyward

Steelers’ Cameron Heyward Open To 2025 Free Agent Departure

It has become clear this offseason that Cameron Heyward is seeking a new deal from the Steelers. If an extension agreement is not reached, he could enter the 2025 offseason as a free agent.

Heyward is due a $16MM base salary this season, the final year of his $65.5MM 2020 contract. The reigning Walter Payton Man of the Year winner has spent his entire 13-year career in Pittsburgh, and he hopes to remain with the Steelers for years to come. No hometown discount should be expected, though, which leaves open the possibility of an agreement not being reached in time for the start of the season.

In that case, the 35-year-old would play out the 2024 campaign as a walk year. His latest comments on his future confirm he is immediately focused on the coming season, one which will be critical in establishing his value. Heyward saw his production drop in an injury-shortened 2023 slate, and multiple core muscle surgeries have taken place aimed at providing the opportunity for a rebound. A strong showing this year would help boost Heyward’s stock on a new Steelers accord or one sending him elsewhere.

“I have talked to my wife, and we know the reality, and we have had those talks, and she said it could be fun to play somewhere else,” the three-time All-Pro said, via The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly (subscription required). If that is what is needed to be done, then so be it. But I am still enjoying the ride here this year.”

Heyward is seeking a two-year extension, something which would greatly strengthen his chances of playing out his full NFL tenure as a Steeler. That could, of course, still wind up being the case. His comment certainly points to an openness to exploring the market, though, meaning the progress of negotiations during the summer will be an interesting storyline to follow.

Pittsburgh has a mix of veterans (Larry Ogunjobi, Montravius Adams, Dean Lowry) and recent draft additions (DeMarvin Leal, Keeanu Benton, Logan Lee) along the defensive interior. Heyward will have a large role to play once again in 2024 as the leader of that group, but whether or not that will double as his final Pittsburgh campaign remains to be seen.

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.

Steelers’ Cameron Heyward Addresses Upcoming OTA Absence

A number of veterans around the NFL are set to miss OTAs as they aim to land new contracts. That group includes Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, who will be absent from the team during upcoming OTAs.

The three-time All-Pro is under contract for one more year with his $65.6MM 2020 extension set to expire. Heyward admitted in January that he needed time to evaluate his future, but he is now committed to continuing his decorated career. As a result, he is angling for an extension while missing voluntary workouts.

When speaking about his situation on his Not Just Football podcast, Heyward said, “[I] have always attended these, but at this time it’s just contract negotiations, and I want to be a Pittsburgh Steeler, but we’ll see what happens” (h/t ESPN’s Brooke Pryor).

Heyward, 35, has spent his entire 13-year career in Pittsburgh, establishing himself as one of the league’s top interior defenders over that span. He racked up six straight Pro Bowls from 2017-22, but last season he was limited to just 11 regular season games due to a groin injury. The Ohio State product – who was healthy in time for the Steelers’ wild-card game – had avoided lengthy absences each season since 2016 prior to his missed time in 2023.

With just two sacks, this past campaign was Heyward’s least productive year since his rookie campaign from a pass rush perspective. He has reached double-digit sacks three times in his career, though, including the 2021 and ’22 seasons. A return to health could once again provide the team with a multitude of options at the defensive tackle spot, and an extension would likely lower Heyward’s 2024 cap hit ($22.4MM).

In Heyward’s absence, the Steelers’ OTAs will include veterans Larry Ogunjobi, Montravius Adams and Dean Lowry along the D-line. Pittsburgh has also invested at the position in the draft in recent seasons with the selections of DeMarvin Leal (2022), Keeanu Benton (2023) and Logan Lee (2024). The latter three will be in the team’s long-term plans, and it will be interesting to see if the same winds up being the case for Heyward.

Steelers DL Cameron Heyward Seeking Extension, To Skip OTAs

After initial thoughts that Steelers defensive mainstay Cameron Heyward was perhaps contemplating retirement, we heard reports that seemed to indicate that he intended to return for his 14th season of play. The latest from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler seems to indicate that Heyward’s visions for the future expand far past the 2024 NFL season.

Heyward, 35, has spent all 13 of his NFL seasons with the Steelers, somehow getting better with age. Before reaching the fifth-year option of his first-round rookie contact, the Steelers extended Heyward to a six-year, $59.25MM deal. Up to that point, Heyward had showed plus attributes as a pass rusher with a career-high of 7.5 sacks in a season. After missing the team’s final ten games of the first year of his new contract in 2016, Heyward delivered a career year with 12.0 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, and 22 quarterback hits the following season.

Since then, Heyward has perennially been considered one of the top interior pass rushers in the NFL, missing a Pro Bowl last year for the first time since that breakout season. In addition to a down year, Heyward missed more than two games with injury for the first time since 2016, sitting out six contests near the beginning of the year. That groin injury was part of Heyward’s consideration to hang up his cleats, but according to Fowler, Heyward is healthy from last year’s injury and plans to play “several more years.”

In order to play several more years, though, Heyward is going to need a new contract. The veteran is heading into the final year of his most recent deal. He is reportedly seeking an extension and is pushing for the new deal this offseason, so much so that Heyward is planning not to attend the team’s organized team activities. An extension could also benefit the Steelers, as well, as Heyward is set to represent a $22.41MM cap hit in 2024. A new deal could lessen that cap hit, pushing bigger numbers to later years.

Heyward, who also skipped Pittsburgh’s voluntary offseason workouts, has never missed an offseason program during his time as a long-time team captain. Going to these lengths shows just how serious he is about pursuing a new deal that keeps him in town for several more seasons.

Steelers Rumors: Patterson, Heyward, Wilson, Peterson

Cordarrelle Patterson became one of the best return men in NFL history despite playing during an era when rule changes limited the number of kickoffs that were actually returned. Patterson, 33, recently signed a two-year contract with the Steelers, and as Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes, the club initiated a dialogue with Patterson when talks to modify the kickoff rules were gaining steam among league owners. Once those modifications — which are designed to encourage more kick returns — were formally approved, Pittsburgh acted quickly to bring Patterson aboard.

Per Dulac, Patterson’s two-year deal is worth $6MM. While the versatile four-time First-Team All-Pro may see some action in the passing game and ground game, it is clear the Steelers are primarily counting on him to reprise his role as a dominant return specialist.

Now for more news and notes out of Pittsburgh:

  • Franchise icon Cameron Heyward seemed to be contemplating retirement following a 2023 season marred by a serious groin injury, and there was even a possibility that the Steelers could seek to release him given how much cap room the club could save by doing so. As Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk relayed back in February, Heyward underwent an unspecified surgery, and the player himself wrote on X that he is “done doing stuff on [one] leg that guys were doing on [two] legs.” Heyward added that he “can’t wait to get back to myself,” and Dale Lolley of the team’s official website wrote several weeks ago that HC Mike Tomlin believes the soon-to-be 35-year-old will be fully cleared by training camp. In sum, it appears that Heyward will be back for a 14th season, $22.41MM cap charge and all.
  • Another indication that Heyward would return to the Steelers for the 2024 campaign is the fact that he was one of the strongest advocates for the team’s Russell Wilson acquisition, per Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network (video link). Both players have Walter Payton Man of the Year Award honors to their name, and Tomlin also pushed for a Wilson signing after meeting with the veteran passer. According to Pelissero, Wilson’s agent made calls around the league to see if any team — like the Steelers — that might be interested in signing his client to a one-year contract would also be willing to tack on an “unprecedented, massive player option for 2025.” Unsurprisingly, there were no takers, so after another lengthy conversation with Tomlin, Wilson signed his contract with Pittsburgh.
  • Defensive back Patrick Peterson, whom the Steelers released last month, recently said that he has had preliminary talks with a handful of teams since his release, though he does not anticipate signing a new deal before the upcoming draft. The future Hall of Fame corner struggled during his one season in Pittsburgh, and the team gave him an extended look at safety as a result. Once clubs have a better idea of their roster weaknesses post-draft, interest in Peterson could pick up, and as Lolley writes, Tomlin is open to a Steelers-Peterson reunion (though a new contract will certainly be less valuable than the two-year, $14MM accord Peterson signed with the club in 2023).
  • Before signing Wilson and trading for Justin Fields, the Steelers considered, at least to some degree, Kirk Cousins, Ryan Tannehill, and Tyler Huntley.

Steelers Expected To Exercise RB Najee Harris’ Fifth-Year Option

The Steelers are expected to exercise running back Najee Harris‘ fifth-year option prior to the May 2 deadline, per Mark Kaboly of The Athletic (subscription required). That maneuver would give Harris a fully-guaranteed salary of $6.66MM for the 2025 season (he is due to earn $2.44MM in 2024 on the fourth and final year of his rookie contract).

The running back market has notoriously grown stagnant in recent years, and Harris was one of the high-profile RBs to publicly voice his frustration with that trend. In June, Pittsburgh GM Omar Khan suggested that surging prices for quarterbacks naturally create the need to cut costs on other areas of the roster, and like his fellow top execs, Khan might not have an appetite for authorizing a lucrative second contract for a running back in light of the position’s high attrition rate, especially for workhorse backs like Harris.

Of course, the Steelers are in quarterback limbo at the moment, as 2022 first-rounder Kenny Pickett has struggled through his first two professional seasons, and Mitchell Trubisky is the only other quarterback under club control for 2024. But regardless of whether the Steelers add a notable QB contract to their books this offseason, the relatively small fifth-year salary for Harris in 2025 should be easy enough to absorb. Whether extension talks take place between now and the end of the 2025 campaign, however, is an entirely different story.

Mason Rudolph, who just finished a one-year veteran minimum deal, was inserted into the starting lineup in Week 16 after Trubisky struggled in relief of an injured Pickett. That switch coincided with a heavier reliance on the running game, as Harris tallied 72 carries over the final three contests of the regular season and racked up 312 yards (4.33 YPC) and four TDs in the process. Efficiency had been a problem for Harris, but that productive stretch helped him finish the year with a YPC over 4.0 for the first time in his career and underscored his potential upside. Whomever the Steelers hire as their next OC should have a productive RB tandem in Harris and Jaylen Warren, who was a UDFA in 2022 and who is therefore entering a platform campaign.

Another decision that Khan will have to make this offseason is not as clear as the call to pick up Harris’ option. We recently heard that stalwart DT Cam Heyward may be contemplating retirement following a 2023 season marred by a serious groin injury, and while Kaboly says Heyward would like to return for at least one more season (subscription required), the decision is not his alone. The Steelers can cut the six-time Pro Bowler and save roughly $10MM against the 2024 salary cap after accounting for dead money, but as Kaboly notes, ownership would probably rather eat Heyward’s salary than release him given what he has meant to the franchise.

In other words, if Heyward is able to continue playing, the team will welcome him back. Although Kaboly does not say so, it is presumably still possible that player and team work out a short-term extension to smooth out Heyward’s $22MM cap hit in 2024.

Steelers DL Cam Heyward Contemplating Retirement?

Steelers defensive lineman Cam Heyward, who has long been one of the best interior defenders in the game, is on the back nine of his illustrious career. Heyward himself has suggested that he may have already played his final NFL game.

When asked earlier this week what the future holds for him, Heyward said, “First and foremost, I have to see how my body feels. It’s been a rough season” (via Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

Indeed, Heyward played in only 11 games this season due to a groin injury he sustained in Week 1, making 2023 the first year in which he has missed any signficant action since a seven-game 2016 campaign. And his performance has taken a noticeable dip, with Pro Football Focus assigning him a 69.8 overall grade that, while strong, is nowhere near the elite levels he has attained in recent seasons. In fact, that is the lowest mark that Heyward has earned since his injury-shortened 2016 season, when he was given a 66.5 grade.

The surface-level stats are also lacking, as the two sacks, 33 tackles, and six tackles for loss he posted this year would still fall well short of his 2021-22 totals even if they were extrapolated over a full season. That diminished performance, combined with a season marred by a difficult injury, could certainly deter Heyward from returning for his age-35 campaign in 2024.

On the other hand, the 2011 first-rounder has earned Pro Bowl acclaim in each of the last six seasons, a stretch that also included three First Team All-Pro bids. So he may have another quality year or two left in the tank, especially if he can put this season’s health struggles behind him.

He is also under contract through 2024, though his $16MM base salary for next year is not guaranteed. He is due to carry a $22.41MM cap charge due to bonus prorations, which may be an untenable figure for the Steelers. If Heyward does choose to continue his playing career, the team could explore either a pay cut or a brief extension that lowers his cap hit.

Pittsburgh kept its playoff hopes alive with a victory against Baltimore in yesterday’s regular season finale. However, the club needs one of the Bills or Jaguars to drop their Week 18 contests today to qualify for the postseason.

AFC Injury Roundup: Colts, Ivey, Steelers, Wilson

The Colts battled through a number of injuries to beat the Steelers and remain in the playoff hunt for the AFC yesterday. Two key players in wide receiver Michael Pittman and running back Zack Moss were forced to exit the game early with injuries and failed to return.

Pittman was knocked out of the game with a concussion after receiving a hit from Steelers safety Damontae Kazee that resulted in Kazee’s ejection. Without his favorite target by far, quarterback Gardner Minshew was required to spread the ball out, completing passes to eight other players for the rest of the game. Though they were able to find success, Indianapolis will hope that Pittman can work his way through the concussion protocols quickly as Pittman is the target on nearly a third of the team’s pass attempts.

There was serious concern when Moss exited the game with an injury to the same arm that was broken around the start of the season. He was forced to leave the game due to issues with grip. With Jonathan Taylor missing most of the season thus far, Moss has taken the crown as the team’s leading rusher. Luckily, X-rays came back negative on Moss’ arm, so he should be able to return next week.

Here are a few other injury updates from around the AFC this week:

  • Joining fellow Bengals defender D.J. Reader, who was announced to be out for the season last night, seventh-round rookie cornerback DJ Ivey left yesterday’s game with a torn ACL that will end his season, as well, per Kelsey Conway of USA Today. The late-round pick out of Miami (FL) will see his rookie season cut short just as he was beginning to earn some more playing time in Cincinnati. He received a game ball last week for making a key pass breakup and recovering a fumble on punt coverage.
  • After Kazee was ejected, the Steelers were left with two backups in the game when Minkah Fitzpatrick left the game with a knee injury, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Fitzpatrick was able to walk off the field under his own power, but after a brief evaluation on the sideline, it was determined that he should not return for the second half of the game. Another starter, defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, will be a question mark to make a Week 16 appearance as he is reportedly in concussion protocol, per ESPN’s Brooke Pryor.
  • Lastly, from today’s games, the Jets were once again forced to turn to a new passer, this time Trevor Siemian, after starting quarterback Zach Wilson was forced to leave the game with a concussion in the second quarter, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN. If Wilson is unable to come back next week, it’ll likely be Siemian starting for New York against the Commanders.

Steelers Activate DL Cameron Heyward From IR

The Steelers are welcoming back one of their defensive captains. The team announced that they’ve activated Cameron Heyward from injured reserve. The defensive lineman doesn’t have an injury designation heading into tomorrow night’s game against the Titans.

Heyward suffered a groin injury in Week 1 that ultimately required surgery. After being given an initial recovery timeline of eight weeks, the defensive lineman was able to return to the field about seven weeks after his operation. Heyward returned to Steelers practice last week.

“I trust what they’re doing, and I know my body, and I know I’m up there in age, but I feel like I progressed pretty well,” Heyward told ESPN’s Brooke Pryor last week.

The 2011 first-round pick has spent his entire career in Pittsburgh, earning six Pro Bowl appearances and three first-team All-Pro nods in his 12-plus seasons with the organization. Prior to his injury this season, Heyward had only missed a single regular season game since the 2018 campaign.

Despite 2022 marking his age-32 season, Heyward was still plenty productive. He added another Pro Bowl to his resume after finishing with 74 tackles, 10.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. The veteran is still attached to a four-year, $65.6MM extension he signed with the Steelers back in 2020.

Steelers Designate Cam Heyward For Return

The Steelers’ defense is set to receive a major boost in the near future. Defensive lineman Cam Heyward returned to practice on Thursday.

As a result, his 21-day activation window has now been opened. The Steelers must activate him from injured reserve within that timeframe to avoid having him revert to season-ending IR. While today’s news means Heyward could be back in the lineup as early as Week 8, the team’s Thursday night game following that (Nov. 2) is likely the earliest point at which he will suit up, per Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Heyward suffered a groin injury in the regular season opener, and it was immediately understood he would be shut down for an extended stretch as a result. Surgery was needed, and an eight-week recovery timetable was in place at the time of the procedure. Bringing the three-time All-Pro back into the fold in time for the next game or so would fall in line with timeframe. Whenever it takes place, his return will be welcomed by the Steelers’ defense.

Pittsburgh’s underwhelming offense has understandably drawn signficant criticism this season, but the team’s defense has signficant room for improvement as well. The latter unit sits 30th in the NFL in yards allowed per game, and it is surrendering more than 142 yards per contest on the ground. Heyward should especially help in that category, though his double-digit sacks in each of the past two seasons prove he will make a major impact in the pass-rush department as well.

Heyward, 34, has been a mainstay of the Steelers’ defense throughout his 13-year career with the team. He has earned a Pro Bowl nod in each of the past six seasons, proving he remains one of the team’s most important contributors on either side of the ball. With one more year on his current deal after this one (with a non-guaranteed salary and a cap hit of $22.4MM), there will also be financial implications to Heyward returning to full health and continuing his elite form.

The Steelers have seven IR activations remaining, and bringing the Ohio State alum back will use up one of them. The same is true of running back Anthony McFarland, whose practice window was opened last week, as well as tight end Pat Freiermuth, who was placed on IR ahead of Week 7.