The first thing that comes to your mind when you think about new Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is dropped passes. The second thing that you think about, however, is his speed and throughout his career he has shown what a weapon it is.
Since coming into the league as a first-round draft pick in 2009, Heyward-Bey has registered 31 explosive plays of 20 yards of more and that’s 18.3% of his 169 career catches. He would have a lot more if only he were able to hold on to the football.
Last season with the Indianapolis Colts, Heyward-Bey registered two explosive plays of 20 yards or more and below is a look at both of those plays in animated gif form.
Against the Denver Broncos early in the 2013 season, Heward-Bey easily split the defense down the seem against a quarters coverage look for a big explosive play. The most encouraging thing about this play is that he holds on to the football after taking a hit following the catch. You can a better view of that in the second gif.
While we don’t know for sure, it looks like Heyward-Bey recognizes the corner blitz on this play against the Tennessee Titans. Heyward-Bey breaks free uncontested to his left on a shallow slant for an easy catch. You would like to see him win the race to the corner after the catch, but this play still goes for more than 20 yards just the same.
In 2012 as a member f the Oakland Raiders, Heyward-Bey had quite a few explosive plays. In this gif below, he turns around Jacksonville Jaguars veteran cornerback Rashean Mathis with a double-move and the easy reception goes for another explosive play.
Against the Broncos in 2012, Heyward-Bey turns a simple out route reception and missed tackle into a 50-plus yard touchdown. 39 of those yards came after the catch.
In the Raiders game against the Baltimore Ravens in 2012, Heyward-Bey breaks a poor tackle attempt by safety Ed Reed for anther 50-plus yard touchdown. 36 of these yards came after contact.
In order to fix Heyward-Bey’s drop problem, perhaps the Steelers should consider having his left arm tied behind his back. As you can see in these two gifs of a catch against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012, Heyward-Bey makes a great explosive play catch against decent coverage. Yes, he did need that left arm to avoid dropping the pass, so maybe tying it behind his back isn’t the best idea after all.
While still not a great route runner, Heyward-Bey’s speed still needs to be respected even though he’s developed a reputation of not having great hands. He can still easily flip the field via an explosive play.