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Steelers ‘Not Overly Concerned’ about Cam Heyward Skipping OTAs

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin brushed aside concerns about defensive captain Cam Heyward skipping OTAs.

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Pittsburgh Steelers DT Cam Heyward
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Acrisure Stadium on Dec. 23, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers defensive captain Cam Heyward made good on his promise to stay away from the team during the start of optional Organized Team Activities on Tuesday, but the Steelers don’t seem particularly concerned about the absence of their veteran leader.

Heyward, 35, is coming off an injury-riddled 2023 season and had another surgery since the end of the campaign, so he likely would not have been asked to do a lot in OTAs, at any rate.

Heyward is entering the final season of his contract and told Steelers Now that he plans to play two to three more seasons, and hopes to reach a deal to close out his career in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Steelers DT Cam Heyward

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward during a game against the New England Patriots at Acrisure Stadium on Dec. 8, 2023. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday that Heyward’s absence didn’t matter much, from a football perspective and that he’s been in close contact with his defensive captain throughout the process.

“I’m not overly concerned, to be quite honest with you,” Tomlin said. “Cam’s a guy with over 10,000-plus career snaps. It’s probably an easier day for me with him not being there. I thin the lines out to get to know some people that I know less than him. Obviously, I know Cam very well. We’ve shared a lot of experiences over the years. But he and I talk often, as a matter of fact, we talked twice yesterday, but that’s not an irregular thing. That’s what we always do: talk not only about where he is and what’s going on with him, but where this team is, because as a leader, he needs information in that regard.”

Heyward’s communication with the team has been contentious, with him disputing a report on Tuesday that he didn’t inform the club that he wouldn’t be at OTAs before announcing it on his podcast.

RELATED: Cam Heyward Refutes Report He Didn’t Tell Steelers about OTA Holdout

New quarterback Russell Wilson, who said Heyward was instrumental in recruiting him to Pittsburgh earlier this offseason, echoed Tomlin’s thoughts that he expects Heyward to be ready to go for when prep for the 2024 season gets serious later this summer.

“If anybody is prepared, Cam Heyward is prepared,” Wilson said. “This guy is one of the best to ever do it at his position. … It’s a business and everybody knows that. Everybody goes through it. It’s a process. But if anybody’s been here, even though he’s not physically here, he’s here in spirt with us. That’s what we love about him.”

Heyward said he and the team have been in discussions about a contract extension, but it’s not clear how far along those talks are or how far apart the sides are. He said he plans to stay away from OTAs, as long as he and the team are still working on a new deal.

Other significant Steelers players who are also on expiring contracts were in attendance on Tuesday, including running back Najee Harris, tight end Pat Freiermuth and guard James Daniels. 

“Really excited about the participating and the engagement,” Tomlin said of the general attendance. “It’s been good throughout. But at the same time, we’re not patting ourselves on the back for that. When you have the type of goals that we have, then it’s a requirement.”