Cameron Heyward has evolved into one of the best defensive players in the NFL. The Steelers are now paying him like it.
The All-Pro defensive tackle has agreed to a four-year extension worth $65.6 million, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source. The team later made the news official.
His performance the past few seasons priced him out of his current contract, which was set to expire after 2020. The new deal puts him on Pittsburgh's books for five years and $75.1 million and makes him the league's highest-paid defensive player over 30 based on yearly average, Rapoport added.
He's already one of its most productive. The 31-year-old lineman has been mostly unstoppable up front since 2017, collecting 29 sacks and 179 tackles. Heyward tallied a career-high 83 tackles in 2019, making his second All-Pro team and third consecutive Pro Bowl.
A first-round pick for the Steelers in 2011, Heyward's star turn wasn't always inevitable. He didn't become a starter until his third season and was more good than great for much of his 20s. A move from defensive end to the interior a few years back proved to be prescient, with Heyward becoming even more adept at sacking quarterbacks while clogging run lanes for a stingy Steelers defense.
That doesn't figure to change anytime soon.