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Cameron Heyward on plans to skip OTAs for first time: 'I want to be a Pittsburgh Steeler, but we'll see what happens'

There will be a very noticeable 6-foot-5, 295-pound absence at the Pittsburgh Steelers' organized team activities next week.

Six-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Cameron Heyward plans to miss the Steelers' voluntary OTAs for the first time as he enters the last season of his current contract.

"I have always attended these, but at this time, it's just contract negotiations," Heyward said on his Not Just Football podcast, which dropped on Thursday morning. "Ya know, I want to be a Pittsburgh Steeler, but we'll see what happens."

Heyward, who's set to make $16 million in 2024, was responding to and confirming a report from ESPN that he would not attend OTAs, which begin Tuesday and carry on through June 6 with 10 total sessions. Pittsburgh's mandatory minicamp takes place from June 11-13.

"First of all, it's voluntary, let's get that straight," Heyward said of OTAs. "I'm working out, I'm doing everything but [going to OTAs]."

Heyward will not be subject to any fines with OTAs, as he mentioned, being voluntary, but if he chooses to skip mandatory minicamp, the Steelers could elect to penalize him financially for his absence at the juncture.

The reigning Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year is a renowned leader in the Steelers locker room who's a seven-time team captain, along with being a three-time All-Pro talent on the field.

The durable DT dealt with a groin injury last season that forced him to miss six games -- his first elongated absence from playing since 2016. Following that 2016 season, Heyward ran off six straight Pro Bowl campaigns, a run that ended in 2023.

Coming off an injury and heading into his age-35 season, it makes sense that Heyward wants to get one more big contract. He inked a four-year, $65.6 million extension in 2020, but times have changed drastically. Heyward's $16.4 annual average salary is just inside the top 20 among interior defensive linemen.

Heyward clearly wants to stay put in Pittsburgh, but he just as clearly wants to be taken care of, and missing OTAs for the first time is his initial move off the line of negotiations.

"You gotta do what's right for you," he said. "I'm training hard. It's nothing I'm not doing on and off the field. I'm doing everything possible. We'll get there when we get there."

As the spring carries on, we shall see if the NFL's best man gets paid among the league's elite defensive linemen.

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