Pros and cons of inking Cameron Heyward to a new contract

Cameron Heyward has been one of the Steelers best players for over a decade, but is that enough to hand him an expensive extension to finish his career?
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward (97)
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward (97) / Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers have a strong track record of their star players finishing their careers in Pittsburgh, and that loyalty is often brought up as a positive by many across the NFL. Players like Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, and Ben Roethlisberger all spent over a decade in the NFL without ever leaving Pittsburgh, and another player is looking to add his name to that list.

Cameron Heyward has been one of the most impactful players for the Steelers for over a decade, and his excellence on and off the field has set an example of what it means to be a Steeler. With his career winding down, he is looking for a new contract that will allow him to finish his career as a Steeler. He has earned many honors in his career including six Pro Bowls, three first-team All-Pro selections, and most recently a Walter Payton Man of the Year award.

His 2023 season was marred by injury and his effectiveness upon his return was not up to his standards. He has expressed wanting to play three more seasons, but can he continue to play at a high level as he gets closer to 40 than 30? If so, should the Steelers be willing to pay top dollar for a player who could regress even further in 2024 and beyond? Let's dive into the pros and cons of a potential Heyward extension.


While there are a lot of potential risks involved, extending Cam Heyward's contract has plenty of potential positives. Keeping one of the best players of this era of Steelers football around for his entire career would be another example of the loyalty that defines the Steelers way. Rewarding Heyward for the stellar back half of his career with one final payday is also something that players around the league will notice.

Heyward's play on the field in 2023 may have dipped a bit from previous years, but the groin injury he suffered in week one is likely the cause of that. A fully healthy version of him could still be an impact interior defender. Even if his ability to rush the passer never returns to an elite level, his raw strength will allow him to remain effective as a run defender. His impact as a leader and a mentor for Keanu Benton and the rest of the defensive line also shouldn't be forgotten.

Last but certainly not least is his impact on the community. Heyward has been selected as the Steelers nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award six times in his career, in large part due to his work with the youth of Pittsburgh through various programs. While his charity work may not be considered as the Steelers try and decide his future, it certainly is a positive for the city of Pittsburgh.


The potential downsides of a Cam Heyward extension are pretty straightforward. Paying serious money for an interior defender who is 35 years old and coming off a down season isn't exactly smart business typically. The Steelers are hoping for a healthy and impactful season in 2024 for Heyward, but are they confident enough that he can return to form and keep that form for the next few years?

That question is why this extension isn't as simple as it appears on the surface. If Heyward wants a deal for two or more years at a similar yearly salary to the other top interior defenders, that would be a tough pill to swallow. He is currently in the final year of his deal which has paid him just over $16 million a season. Even that number would be a bit rich, but anything above that would be a huge risk financially for the Steelers.

Russell Wilson seems desperate for Steelers fans' approval. Russell Wilson seems desperate for Steelers fans' approval. dark. Next

As great as Heyward has performed since turning 30, Father Time is undefeated. He should be able to remain a good run defender thanks to his size, strength, and length, but his days as an elite interior rusher may be behind him. If he badly regresses in 2024 after securing a multi-year extension, the Steelers could be left with an albatross contract. Not ideal for a team with several players looking for new deals as early as next season.