PITTSBURGH — Cam Heyward spent the offseason swatting away questions about his future as the final year of his rookie deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers loomed this fall.

No matter how he was asked, the defensive end always gave a variation of the same answer: “I’m good.”

And now on the eve of training camp, he’s paid.

Heyward agreed to a new six-year contract Thursday worth nearly $60 million that will keep him in Pittsburgh through 2020. The 26-year-old posted a picture of him signing the deal on Twitter with the caption “I love this organization.” He later tweeted “never know how much it means 2 stay a Steeler.”

The Steelers are at the end of a youth movement on a defense that is trying to reinvent itself. Heyward is a key part of the process. He set a career-high in 2014 and tied for the team lead with 7.5 sacks as the Steelers won the AFC North title. Pittsburgh did it, however, in spite of a defense that slipped to 18th in yards allowed and 27th against the pass thanks in part to a pass rush that struggled to generate consistent pressure.

Changes came quickly in the offseason. Hall of Fame defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau left and was replaced by linebackers coach Keith Butler. Longtime defensive end Brett Keisel, who served as Heyward’s mentor, was released while safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor retired.

Heyward’s future never really was in doubt. The Steelers exercised their fifth-year option on his rookie deal last spring and nailing him down long-term became a priority once quarterback Ben Roethlisberger agreed to a contract extension in March.

Heyward joins a core that includes Roethlisberger, center Maurkice Pouncey and wide receiver Antonio Brown, all of whom are signed through at least the 2017 season as Pittsburgh tries to get back to its status as one of the NFL’s elite franchises. Last season’s late surge to a playoff berth was a start, but not the finish.

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