The much anticipated Ben Roethlisberger contract extension finally came to fruition last week, and with the big time deal now in the rear view mirror the Pittsburgh Steelers can direct their attention to other matters, and none would be more important for the franchise moving forward than signing Cameron Heyward to a new contract keeping him in black and gold for years to come.
Heyward's 5th year club option was exercised by the Steelers keeping him in the fold for the 2015 season, but unless something is done this offseason, Heyward will be playing in a contract year as he prepares to reach free agency in 2016. With the Steelers defense already starting to split at the seams, the potential of losing arguably their best defender would be a devastating blow.
Although Heyward had a rough start to his career, in terms of performing up to the expectations placed on a first round draft pick, he has put together back-to-back stellar seasons for the Steelers. In 2013, Heyward had 59 combined tackles, 5 sacks and 7 passes defended. If that wasn't enough, in 2014 he had 53 combined tackles, 7.5 sacks (tied for the team lead) and 4 passes defended.
Heyward has become a dominant force who can not only stop the run, but has the ability to get after the quarterback. Maybe it is the lack of an outside pass rush, but in the Steelers' 3-4 scheme a defensive lineman shouldn't be tied for the team lead in sacks. This is a credit to Heyward and his work ethic on and off the field. Tutored under the wing of Brett Keisel, Heyward's time has obviously come, and the time for the Steelers to give Heyward a new contract is following directly behind it.
The Steelers owe Heyward roughly $6.9 million for the 2015 season, and giving him a new contract would be a wise decision for the organization both financially and on the field. Heyward takes over for Keisel as the leader of the defensive line as he tutors Stephon Tuitt entering his sophomore year, and has been the best, and most consistent, defender the Steelers have on their roster.
Heyward's time has come, and the Steelers time to pay him is now.