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Ryan Clark Speaks on Cam Heyward’s Contract Situation

Ryan Clark addresses what Cam Heyward and his pursuit for a contract means for the Steelers this season and moving forward.

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Pittsburgh Steelers DT Cam Heyward
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive captain Cam Heyward chases Buffalo Bills receiver Khalil Shakir on Jan. 15, 2024. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Pittsburgh Steelers team captain Cam Heyward wants a new contract and will not attend OTAs while searching for that new deal. While he negotiates a new contract extension with the team, according to a report by Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. Heyward explained his rationale for sitting out on Thursday.

Heyward, the team’s longtime defensive captain, told Steelers Now last week that he is looking for a contract extension and wants to play two or three more seasons. The 35-year-old is set to enter the final season of his current contract in 2024, and is owed $16 million this coming season.

“We’ve talked about an extension,” Heyward said to Steelers Now at a community event on Saturday. “We’ll see what happens. My goal is to play two to three more years. Mostly three. I’m looking for an opportunity. We’ll see what happens. I’d like it to be here, but my goal is to play. So we’ll see.”

Heyward has not been participating in offseason workout, according to Fowler, and has never missed OTAs for a contract dispute. It’s not clear if Heyward, will be in attendance but not participating, as other Steelers veterans like Minkah Fitzpatrick, Diontae Johnson and T.J. Watt have done over the last few years, or if he plans to skip the sessions entirely. But Heyward says that is just business.

“First of all, it’s voluntary. Let’s get that straight. I’m working out, doing everything,” Heyward said on Not Just Football. “I have always attended these, but at this time, it’s just contract negotiations. I want to be a Pittsburgh Steeler, but we’ll see what happens. You got to do what’s right for you. I’m training hard; there’s nothing I’m not doing on and off the field. I’m doing everything possible, and we’ll get there when we get there.”

Pittsburgh Steelers DL Cam Heyward

Pittsburgh Steelers DL Cam Heyward against the Cincinnati Bengals, Dec. 23, 2023 – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Because the Steelers do not negotiate with players in-season, they typically handle contract extensions with players in the summer before their final season. A contract extension with Cam Heyward could reduce his 2024 salary cap hit, if the team turns some of his $16 million salary into a signing bonus that would be spread out over the life of the new contract. But does that really matter? Ryan Clark says not really.

“I believe it’s nothing,” Clark said. “It’s part of what happens when players get a little older. Get to the end of their contracts, and I’ll tell you a little story about Mike Tomlin. As I got up in age and also along with Troy, he would call us both on the same day. And he’d ask us what we would want to come to OTAs. And we’d both ask him the same question. Do you want us different weeks or together? And he’d normally go together and that’s when we would go. Coach Tomlin isn’t one of those people that forces people into OTAs.”

Heyward is coming off an injury-plagued 2022 season, when he suffered a torn groin and also had surgery for a core muscle injury, also known as a sports hernia. Heyward was expected to miss three months after the Week 1 injury and surgery, but returned eight weeks later, albeit well before he was 100%. Heyward played in 11 games in 2023, recording 33 tackles, six tackles for a loss, three quarterback hits, two sacks and one pass defended.

Until the injuries, the elder statesman of the Pittsburgh defense had shown no signs of slowing down, despite his 194 games of NFL experience. Heyward had earned Pro Bowl nods in six consecutive seasons from 2017-21 and was a four-time Associated Press All-Pro in that span. He set a career high with 89 tackles in 2021, and his 20.5 sacks between 2021-22 were the most he ever had over a two-year span.

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Edward Carmichael
Edward Carmichael
May 17, 2024 9:22 am

as a true Steelers fan, I won’t be surprise if Steelers Omar Khan don’t give Cameron Heyward a new contract because Omar Khan is drafting a younger, faster, quicker defense rookie Logan Lee could be Cameron Heyward’s replacement