Cam Heyward knows what it’s like to wonder about your payday. A former first-round pick who has signed a couple of long-term deals, there’s a bit of an angst to it. Balancing thinking about your future with focusing on the present, working on getting better each day, while not doing anything to jeopardize your impending deal. There’s no wrong answer and every player handles things differently. It’s the situation EDGE rusher Alex Highsmith finds himself in, likely just months – maybe weeks – away from a long-term deal and Wednesday, Heyward praised Highsmith’s approach.
“I think Alex is not letting it affect his craft,” Highsmith said as tweeted by The Trib’s Chris Adamski. “Alex has handled it the right way.”
Highsmith reported for the first day of OTAs Tuesday and participated in practice, at least going through individual and positional work. It’s not known if he also worked in team sessions but afterwards, he told reporters he likes to work, so odds are good he was practicing fully.
He struck a similar tone as the Steelers’ front office and both sides seem optimistic a long-term will get done. Perhaps it’s just a question of when it’ll occur. Under Omar Khan, Pittsburgh has shown more urgency to get these deals done, inking Minkah Fitzpatrick last June, Diontae Johnson and Chris Boswell before camp was over, and Mitch Trubisky received a two-year extension last week. Heyward has signed two extensions in his career, one in July 2015 before training camp and another in September 2020 right before the season. So he’s dealt with both sides of the contract timeline.
Highsmith’s deal is a little tricky. It’s not a top-of-the-market deal with a clear floor like there was with T.J. Watt and Fitzpatrick. Still, both sides should have a reasonable idea of the overall money Highsmith is worth, leaving the details as the biggest sticking point. Signing bonus, true fully guaranteed money, any potential roster bonuses, those things can drag out a deal.
For now, Highsmith will work while he waits, an approach Heyward endorses.
“I would just suggest just keep doing what you’re doing,” Heyward said. “Whether it’s on or off the field, everyone knows what you’re capable of. Keep taking care of your body and it’s going to happen.”
Pittsburgh’s philosophy has been to draft, develop, and retain, and it’s more likely than not to sign Highsmith to a long-term deal before September 10th, the team’s Week One contest against the San Francisco 49ers. Should a deal be struck, it’ll be a major success story for Highsmith, once a zero-star recruit who walked on to Charlotte. He spent time as a base 3-4 defensive end before finally being moved to outside linebacker, broke out, got drafted, thrived, and got paid.