The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t do business, as it pertains to giving new players or coaches new contracts, once the regular season begins. That means for players like JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner and Cameron Heyward, among others, the clock was ticking to get a deal done.
There have been famous stories about the Steelers getting a deal done as the clock struck midnight, most notably the contract Troy Polamalu signed as the team was in the airport ready to board a flight for Week 1.
When Cam Heyward received a new 5-year contract with the Steelers worth $65.6 million, it wasn’t as dramatic as the Polamalu story, but equally as significant.
Heyward, the Steelers’ defensive captain, felt as it he was going to be a casualty to the COVID-19 era. No, not that he might become infected with the coronavirus, but how the virus will cause the 2021 salary cap to likely decrease, making it difficult for organizations to give players new contracts.
In fact, on Monday after practice while speaking to the media via Zoom, Heyward said he was ready to ride out his last year and hit the open market. He was ready for his “farewell tour” and his “last ride”.
This per Brooke Pryor of ESPN:
Cam Heyward: “There was a time where this was almost dead, to be completely honest. .... I was getting ready for this to be a farewell tour and my last ride.”— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) September 7, 2020
What changed? Most believe negotiations don’t truly start until a deadline approaches, and it sounds as if that was certainly the case with Heyward and the Steelers. When it came down to it, Heyward became the highest paid defender over the age of 30, per annual salary, and will likely ride out the rest of his contract with the team who drafted him out of Ohio State.
Heyward is extremely appreciative for Art Rooney II and the Steelers organization.
Heyward said negotiations started 3w ago, talks broke off lw and didn’t think they would get there at all. “Even yesterday, I came up here around 8am ... me and Mr. Rooney got to talking.. I’m just appreciative of him. I wanted to be a Pittsburgh Steeler and he made that happen.”— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) September 7, 2020
If Heyward was going to call this his last year with the Steelers, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility the Steelers kept Heyward for at least the 2021 season via the franchise tag. Instead, Heyward’s new contract is for $65.6 million added to the $9.5 million he was set to earn as a base salary in 2020. So, the grand total Heyward is set to earn over the next five years is $75.1 million which comes to an average of just over $15 million per season.
The captain is worth every penny, and everyone knows he will be determined to prove the Steelers right in giving him his latest contract. Barring injury, you can expect Heyward to come out in 2020 and be even more motivated, if that is possible, to be the wrecking ball along the interior of the offense for the next five seasons.
A giant weight has been lifted off Heyward’s shoulders with the signing of this new contract, but now comes the expectations which accompany it. Fans who have followed his career should already know how he will respond to the challenge.
Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the New York Giants in Week 1 of the 2020 regular season.