Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward is entering the final season of a six-year, $59.2 million contract he signed with the team in July 2015, but the All-Pro wants to remain in Pittsburgh well beyond 2020.
"We [assume] something will get done, but assuming—I will always use that saying: If you assume, that makes an ass out of you and me," Heyward told The Athletic's Mark Kaboly. "I have to be ready either way. I would love to be here for the rest of my career, and I feel I have plenty of good years ahead of me playing at a high level."
However, Heyward isn't naive to the fact the NFL is a business.
"Man, I hate talking about it in the past tense like I am already gone, but I have to be ready for the reality if that comes about," the 31-year-old added. "I love being a Pittsburgh Steeler, but if my time is up, my time is up."
Heyward revealed that he and the Steelers have not negotiated "as of late," and Kaboly gave context as to how the organization has historically handled these situations:
"Since the year after free agency began in 1993, the Steelers, by policy, have not negotiated contracts in-season. That being the case, the two sides have until Sept. 14 to agree on an extension. Should that not happen, in nine months, Heyward will test the open market for the first time."
The Steelers selected Heyward in the first round (31st overall) of the 2011 draft. The Ohio State product has been Pittsburgh's defensive captain five times and earned three Pro Bowl nods (2017, '18, '19) to go along with his two All-Pro campaigns ('17, '19).
Spotrac lists Heyward's market value at three years and just over $50 million with $16.7 million average annual value, comparable to Philadelphia Eagles All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and Cincinnati Bengals All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins.
Pro Football Focus graded Heyward behind only Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, among interior lineman:
Heyward has 54 sacks, 79 tackles for loss, 117 quarterback hits and 397 tackles across 134 regular-season games (99 starts)—including nine sacks and a career-most 23 QB hits last season.