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Cam Heyward Looks to Buck History. One Man is Doing it Already

What Cam Heyward wants to do has been done by almost no one before, but he has one recent example he can go and point right to.



Cam Heyward
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward at the team's OTAs sessions, June 4, 2024 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — Cam Heyward wants to buck history. It’s not every day that a 35-year-old asks for a new contract and says that he believes he is still a Top-5 player at his peak. Heyward is coming off a year where a groin injury snuffed him of his steady health for most of his career, but once he returned to the field, Heyward became an excellent run defender. Now, his groin is fixed, and he is ready to go for 2024, but he is heading into the last year of his deal.

Heyward wants a new deal and has made no secret about it. But even he recognizes the challenging circumstances the Steelers are in with his asks. Not only is his age a factor, but the looming injury means he has questions about whether he can return to the heights he reached in 2022 when he racked up double-digit sacks. Heyward acknowledged that his request is tendency-breaking, but he feels he can be different.

“My game is different from everybody else in this league,” Heyward said. “I like to think I can play the run and the pass. And that’s why I’m different. Last year Mike (Tomlin) brought to my attention, the thing that’s really cool is you watch powerlifters, and my game is built on power and technique. And (powerlifters) go into their 40s. And so, you know, that’s what kind of research I’m doing behind the scenes.”

And maybe the lack of history behind it is why it’s so alluring. To this point in his career, Cam Heyward is not like most players. He took a bit to heat up as a player, but once he did, he became one of the best defensive tackles in the league.

Pittsburgh Steelers Cam Heyward

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward at the team’s OTAs sessions, June 4, 2024 – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

“There’s not a lot of history behind it, but for me, I look at it as I’m not looking to be like anybody else,” Heyward said. “My game is different from everybody else in this league, I like to think. I can play the run and the pass, and that’s where I’m different. But we’ll see what happens. There’s not a lot of history, but I’m here to make history, and I’m here to win another Super Bowl here and have a great season.”

What is the excellent news for Heyward in his pursuit? He has an example outlined in front of him. The man has set forth the same display of power and technique that Heyward has over the last few years. I am talking about Calais Campbell. Campbell does not make much sense. But Heyward’s 10.5 sack season in his age 33 season did not make much sense, either.

Over the last two seasons, Campbell has 12 sacks, including 6.5 sacks last year with the Falcons. That’s not normal for a 37-year-old. Campbell is still looking for work this season but should find it after another solid season. Campbell will be 38 years old. That would be the same age that Heyward indicated he wanted to play until he stated that he hoped he had three more seasons left in him.

“I’m looking to be here,” Heyward said. “The value is what we decide. For me, I want to be valued at my position. I understand I came off a rough season, but I don’t think it’s a step down from where I can play. I’m still at the top of my game. I’m still a top-five player at my position. I play the run and the pass. I bring leadership. It’s not anything I discount.”

Campbell got paid $7 million last season. That’s the difference for Heyward. He has to land an extension and the money that values him where he thinks he is in the NFL, which is as one of the top defensive linemen. Campbell can not provide context there, but he can give Heyward an argument and blueprint about what can make his game age gracefully.

The Steelers would take a significant risk by extending Heyward. Numbers and history say as such, but maybe Heyward’s argument on how he plays, specifically with his elite power and technique, can show the Steelers or other prospective teams that he is worthy of landing another big-money deal to close out his career. Campbell is proof that guys who play like Heyward can get it done even into their late 30s. Heyward might just have to silence the doubters to prove he can do it himself.

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Edward Carmichael
Edward Carmichael
June 8, 2024 9:01 am

as a true Steelers fan, Cameron Heyward thank you for your service but Steelers Omar Khan will be drafting your replacement because Omar Khan is getting the Steelers defense younger, faster, quicker, and more physical

June 8, 2024 8:35 pm

I do believe Cam can play another season or two beyond this contract year. We don’t even need him to be a top5 player now that we’ve got an elite clean up crew behind him with Queen, Roberts, Holcomb, and Wilson. What Cam needs to do is work with the team so his legacy can be preserved/extended long enough so he can create the statistics that favor his HOF enshrinement chances. Cams next contract will should be more like Campbell’s and Tomlin will need to rotate Cam more often so he’s still impactful.

Jesus Christani
Jesus Christani
June 9, 2024 12:18 pm

Make history… Tom Brady-like history…

Two more seasons as a starter with starter monies… then let the youngsters take it… but still hang around with little brother on the team as a DL backup, mentor and player-assistant coach (on a player-assistant coach salary) until you’re 45…