The Steelers have a tough choice to make with Cameron Heyward next offseason. Here’s why his price tag may be out of reach for Pittsburgh.
Cameron Heyward has become every bit of the player and more the Steelers hoped he would be when they drafted him with the 31st overall pick back in 2011. Though it was years before he truly made his presence felt, Heyward has now become a two-time All-Pro player.
The former Ohio State product earned just 2.5 sacks in his first 32 games, and through his first 6 seasons in the NFL, Heyward had never earned more than 7.0 sacks in a single year. Now coming off the three best seasons of his career from 2017-2019, the former first-round draft choice is in line for a monster payday next offseason.
According to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic, Heyward could fetch ‘Aaron Donald’ money on the open market in 2021. Donald is entering the fourth year of a $141.8 million contract he signed back in 2018 and is set to make $27.8 million this season, according to Over the Cap. This is not a good sign for the Steelers.
While Heyward has exceeded all expectations and proved to be one of the very best players in the league at his position, Pittsburgh could be in a major financial bind next year. Adam Schefter recently indicated that he believes the cap could drop next season if NFL owners aren’t able to fill seats. But even if it doesn’t, the Steelers are in a bad way financially.
After backloading a handful of contracts and pushing money into the future, Pittsburgh is already set to dish out $187 million next year to just 38 players on the roster, according to Over the Cap. The Steelers have players like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, and James Conner all set to hit the market next year, and the choice on which players to try to retain will be an incredibly difficult task.
According to Spotrac.com, Heywards estimated yearly value on the open market is $16.7 million – a number that is almost sure to be out of Pittsburgh’s price range with the way things are shaping up to be. If Kaboly’s prediction is correct, Heyward’s contact numbers could stretch even higher than this.
The Steelers are soon going to be in a rebuilding phase when Ben Roethlisberger hands up his cleats for good. Cameron Heyward is an amazing football player and deserves the contract he is about to receive next season. Still going strong at 31 years old and without missing more than a game since 2016, there’s no doubt he will be one of the NFL’s top-paid defensive lineman next year.
However, with all of the uncertainty involving the pandemic and the financial outlook for Pittsburgh next season, it’s looking less likely that the Steelers will be able to retain one of the best players on their team – especially if he’s already been rumored to earn ‘Aaron Donald’ money.