Diontae Johnson may be the Steelers best wide receiver this year. Chase Claypool could take the place of Smith-Schuster next year. Benny Snell Jr. could replace James Conner in 2021.
Cam Heyward, though, is irreplaceable.
That's why the Steelers locked him up to a five-year 65.6 million dollar contract.
Heyward was one of the two players who addressed the media last week about social justice issues. He's a leader. He's also a multiple time all-pro. He's combined for 29 sacks the last three seasons. Pro Football Focus, and anyone with eyes, ranks him as one of the best defensive lineman in the entire NFL.
His attitude has always separated him.
A few years back, I was covering a Steelers night training camp practice at Heinz Field. I was standing on the sideline in a position to be able to hear what was going on. Running back Dri Archer (remember him?) caught a swing pass and sauntered a dozen or so yards into the end zone. Ho hum. Big whoop. You know who cared? The 65.6 million dollar man.
Cam Heyward berated his defense using every colorful word that came to his mind. He was fierce. That dude cares about winning. Period.
Antonio Brown loves himself. Le'Veon Bell skipped out on his teammates for a year because of money. Mike Mitchell loved the sound of his own voice. JuJu Smith-Schuster loves social media.
Cam Heyward loves winning. OR, more to the point, he hates to lose.
They NEED him in that locker room.
The Steelers gave Cam the biggest contract ever for a defensive player over the age of 30. This in the midst of a pandemic that threatens to keep next year's salary cap well below what had been projected.
He's worth every penny.