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Cam Heyward Not Retiring, Still Guarded about 2023 Status



Steelers DL Cam Heyward

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Cam Heyward clarified that he’s not retiring on an episode of his Not Just Football Podcast on Wednesday, but said he’s not taking it for granted that he’ll be a part of the team in 2023.

Heyward was asked to clarify his post-season comments that seemed ambiguous about his future with the team. He made it clear that as of right now, he wants to be back, but that he has seen many players in his time in the NFL that wanted to be back in January, but ended up not being part of the squad when September rolled around.

“I don’t think I’m retiring right now,” Heyward said. “I want to keep playing. I want to continue to be a Pittsburgh Steeler. But there’s been so many times in my life that guys I played with have retired, and guys I thought were coming back the next year have retired. I can’t play forever and I understand that. I always have to be ready for that. I will continue to just learn and keep trying to get better. But it can’t just be me. Shoot, the Steelers gotta want me back, too.”

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin poked some fun at the notion that the Steelers might not want Heyward back.

“Cam is the same type of guy that will put a tape job with his last name on it in a training camp-like setting,” Tomlin said. “That’s what makes him who he is. He takes none of this for granted and (his comments were) just an expression of that. … He is special because he has a special approach, because he is legitimately humble and hard-working, and he takes none of this for granted. So that’s probably what that was.”

Heyward was voted a Pro Bowl alternate and continues to be at the top of his game, despite the fact that he’ll be 34 next season. His two sacks against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday gave him 10.5 on the season, the second-best total of his career, and moved him into sole possession of second place on the Steelers’ all-time sacks leaderboard.

Heyward is set to count for $22.3 million against the Steelers’ salary cap in 2023, but the most they could save against next season’s salary cap by releasing or trading him would be $9.4 million.

Between his production and services as a respected team leader and captain, the idea that the Steelers might not want Heyward around seems far-fetched, but he’s not taking anything for granted.

“I don’t want to rush the process of saying, ‘Oh, I’m back. I’ll be here for the Steelers,’ and then we get to May or June and then I’m a June cut or a July cut and it’s like, ‘Oh, damn, well he tried to prepare us,’” Heyward said. “You just never know. I want to be back and I want to be at full strength.”

Either way, it’s clear that at 33, the end of Heyward’s career is closer than the beginning and he is at least starting to think about life after football, even if that won’t necessarily happen this season.

“You look at guys like Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb walking off the field together,” Heyward said. “Appreciate those moments because you don’t know if you guys are ever going to be in the same jersey again. …

“I look around (the Steelers locker) room and because there is so much turnover, there is a draft, guys retire, guys get traded, this team will never look the same, and I will never take that for granted because I love every guy in that locker room. And it is a pleasure to go to work with those guys. They made football fun and they are part of the reason why I keep playing.”

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