Steelers longtime captain Cam Heyward shows up at OTAs still eyeing a new contract

FILE - Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Cam Heyward prepares to go through drills during NFL football practice, Tuesday, June 7, 2022, in Pittsburgh. Heyward made his first appearance at organized team activities on Tuesday, June 4, 2024. The longtime defensive captain is hoping to sign a new contract with the team as he enters the final year of his current deal. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Cam Heyward returned to work on Tuesday, participating in the first session of the third week of organized team activities for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Just don’t confuse the longtime defensive tackle’s attendance with any sort of hint that he is nearing an agreement on a new contract.

The six-time Pro Bowler is entering the final season of his current deal and uncharacteristically skipped the first two weeks of OTAs — which are voluntary — before showing up at the team’s practice facility Tuesday morning.

While the 35-year-old Heyward said he and the Steelers have had plenty of communication during the offseason, he doesn’t believe a deal is close.

“All I know is I want to be here, but we’ll see what happens,” said Heyward, who plans to be at next week’s mandatory minicamp and be on time for training camp at Saint Vincent College in late July. “This is my last year here. I’ve had a great career here, but I look forward to playing next year.”

Heyward endured a frustrating 2023 on the field. He missed six games with a groin injury sustained in the opener against San Francisco. He underwent surgery to repair the issue and wasn’t the same when he returned, finishing with just two sacks, his lowest total since he became a full-time starter a decade earlier.

Off the field, however, was a different matter. Heyward won the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award last season for his charitable work.

The three-time All-Pro — who underwent a second groin surgery in the offseason to deal with an issue that cropped up because he was “overcompensating” to cope with the initial injury — is scheduled to make $16 million this season, with a cap hit of over $22 million. He stressed at the end of last year that he wasn’t interested in a pay cut and now believes he can play up to at least three more years.

“I think when I’m at the top of my game, I’m still a top player in my position and I play the run in the past and I bring leadership and it’s not anything I discount,” Heyward said.

While Heyward allowed it’s rare for defensive linemen in their mid-30s to receive lucrative multi-year deals, he doesn’t see that as a concern.

“For me, I look at it as I’m not looking to be like anybody else,” he said. “My game is different from everybody else in this league.”

Heyward came back to a team that looks far different at certain positions — including quarterback — than the one that lost to Buffalo in the first round of the playoffs in January. The Steelers signed Russell Wilson and inside linebacker Patrick Queen in free agency and traded for quarterback Justin Fields. Heyward called them “good acquisitions,” but doesn’t want Pittsburgh to be “paper champions.”

The franchise hasn’t won a postseason game since the 2016 playoffs and hasn’t reached the Super Bowl since a few months before Heyward arrived in the first round of the 2011 draft. It’s the only real hole on Heyward’s resume, a hole he hopes he’ll get a chance to close before he retires.

“I want to play at a high level and I want to go deep in the playoffs and we got a good team,” he said. “I’m going to do my part to be ready for all those situations.”


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