Defensive end Cameron Heyward has signed a new six-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers through the 2020 season, the team announced. Heyward was originally set to play this season on his fifth-year option from his rookie contract, but he's getting a significant pay raise. His new contract is worth $59.25 million, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Heyward tweeted Thursday night about how much it meant to him to remain with the Steelers:
I love this organization! Very blessed and excited about continuing my career as a Steeler! #somanythanks #greatday pic.twitter.com/kcil0bsHal— Cam Heyward (@CamHeyward) July 17, 2015
And he also paid tribute to his late father, former NFL fullback Craig "Ironhead" Heyward.
never know how much it means 2 stay a steeler! I grew up admiring the steelers I bleed black & gold. Iron head is looking down with a smile— Cam Heyward (@CamHeyward) July 17, 2015
Heyward is the second high-profile extension from the Steelers in recent months, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger inking a massive five-year extension in March. Heyward then became their next priority, and when the New Orleans Saints signed Cameron Jordan to a five-year, $60 million extension earlier this offseason, it was only a matter of time before the Steelers got a deal done.
Heyward, a first-round pick in 2011, struggled through his first two seasons in the league. His performance was lackluster -- he totaled just 31 tackles and 2.5 sacks in those two years -- and people started putting the "bust" label on him. But he turned things around in a big way in 2013 and has now put together two quality seasons. With 7.5 sacks in 2014, Heyward tied Jason Worilds for the team lead. Worilds has since retired from the NFL, making it even more important for the Steelers to lock down Heyward for the next several years.
In four seasons, Heyward has never missed a game and has recorded 143 tackles, 15 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. At 26 years old, he should have plenty left in him.
A strong all-around lineman, Heyward can get after the quarterback and is a dominant force against the run. He's a leader on the defensive line and getting him extended was a no-brainer for the Steelers.