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By: Sean McGeown
SteelerNation.com

Players and fans everywhere can’t wait for the start of training camp. Although it was just announced that for the first time in over 50 years the Pittsburgh Steelers won’t be holding their annual training camp at St Vincents’ College in Latrobe, PA, the hype hasn’t gone anywhere, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic causing all sports to shut down suddenly and prematurely. Football has been one of the only sports not to be held up, as of yet, due to the pandemic.

Unfortunately, fans will not be allowed to attend camp, but that won’t halt the players excitement. Two players on the defensive side of the ball in particular, could get a nice surprise before camp starts.

I’m talking of course about defensive captain, Cameron Heyward, and edge rusher, Bud Dupree.

Heyward is approaching the last year of his six-year deal signed in July 2015. Many are speculating that the Steelers could move on from Heyward, but it’s hard to see why they would. On top of being the captain and unquestionable leader of the defense, he’s been to three straight Pro Bowls, and two out of those three trips were accompanied by votes to the First Team All-Pro (2017 and 2019). In those three seasons, he’s racked up 29 of his 54 career sacks, forced 4 fumbles, recovered 3, and defended 12 passes.

Photocredit: Bleacher Report

Long story short, Heyward is a force to be reckoned with.

Extending Heyward would not only make the fans and Heyward himself happy about adding more years to his tenure and possibly having him retire a Steeler, it could help rework his cap hit of $13,251,250 to something a little more team friendly, and would make it easier for a deal to get done with Dupree as well. Dupree just signed a franchise tag worth $15.8 million, which would earn him the second highest cap hit on the roster this year. Not that he doesn’t deserve it, that is a high number for the Steelers currently, and with the tag only being a one-year deal, a long-term contract makes more sense and the Steelers have until July 15th to do so.

Coming off a career year in which he recorded 11.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries, Dupree was definitely in line for a payday. The Steelers wasted no time locking him up for at least another year, but have expressed he is a “top priority” and indicated they would like to lock him up long-term. Most fans agree with this notion, but some are skeptical due to Dupree getting off to a somewhat slow start in his career. Before 2019, his career high season sack total was 6 in 2017, but most would say he slowly got better each year.

Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Ultimately, it’s going to come down to how much financial leeway the Steelers have, and finding a number that works for both Dupree and the team. Pass rushers are paid top dollar, and there is a chance Dupree could find a bigger payday elsewhere, but it may not be with a defense as complete as Pittsburgh’s is right now. Keeping Dupree opposite TJ Watt, and with Stephon Tuitt returning from injury to hold down the middle next to Heyward, would give Pittsburgh one of the toughest front fours the league has to offer. With 38.5 of the teams 54 total sacks coming from the four of them, and Tuitt going out for the season after just six games played, this is a group you want to keep together for the long haul.

Pittsburgh’s Defensive Front Four Photo Credit: The Mining Journal

Extending Heyward would be the logical first step, but anything can happen; they can extend one or the other, extend both, or just wait until next off-season, but I think it’s less than likely the latter happens. They have both shown interest in staying in Pittsburgh, and both sides are most likely working to make sure deals get done, and to keep two primary pieces to the Steelers’ elite defense in town beyond this year.

Will they both be extended before camp? Will it be only one of them? Will extensions get done at all? Let us know in the comment section below!

#SteelerNation

Lifelong Steeler fan from Long Island, NY . Bleed black and gold. Love sports discussions and giving my opinion, especially when it comes to the Steelers. Follow me on twitter @SeanPMcGeown! Here We Go Steelers!

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