The Steelers drafted a very good player back in 2011. Here’s why Cameron Heyward deserves to hang up his cleats in Pittsburgh when his career is over.
The 2011 draft class was loaded with talented players and future Hall-of-Famers. Despite the Steelers owning just the 31st overall pick after their loss to the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl, they were able to land Ohio State defensive lineman, Cameron Heyward.
Heyward had a slow start to his career in Pittsburgh, as he earned just 2.5 sacks and 0 starts in his first two NFL seasons. By year three, Heyward became a full-time starter but still managed just 5.0 sacks on the year.
Though Heyward was always thought of as a solid NFL starter, it wasn’t until his All-Pro season in 2017 that he was truly considered among the best players in the league at his position. Since then, he has earned All-Pro honors in 2 of the last 3 seasons in addition to making the Pro Bowl three straight times.
Heyward is now entering the final year of his six-year, $59.25 million contract he signed back in 2015. Now approaching his 10th NFL season with the Steelers, it’s not surprising to hear Heyward say that he would like finish his career where he’s played for the past decade. However, the big defensive lineman acknowledges that he needs to be prepared if he isn’t able to return.
Here is some of what he had to say, according to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic:
"“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. 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. I love being a Pittsburgh Steeler, but if my time is up, my time is up.”"
Heward isn’t naive to his worth on the open market. According to Spotrac.com, his estimated value on his next deal is $16.7 million per year. While the two recent All-Pro’s suggests he has earned this money, it may not be easy for the Steelers to come up with it.
Next year, Ben Roethlisberger’s cap number goes through the roof as he is set to be the highest-paid player in the league at $41.25 million. Still, we have to assume that Pittsburgh will do everything in their power to make sure on of their best players of the past decade retires with the Steelers.
Heyward is now 31 years old, and the Steelers need to be careful not to lock themselves into a deal that could get them in trouble down the line. Though he is coming off three straight Pro Bowl seasons, even a player of his caliber won’t be able to keep up the pace forever.
With players like T.J. Watt, David DeCastro, and JuJu Smith-Schuster all in line for lofty extensions, it will be interesting to see how the Steelers prioritize things. All we know is that Cameron Heyward has been an amazing player for the Steelers, and fans would love to have him retire in Pittsburgh.