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Heyward-Bey Signing May Do More Harm Than Good

The Pittsburgh Steelers will reportedly kick the tires on former Oakland Raiders and Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey later today, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

This continues a theme of the organization looking to plug some of the few remaining holes on the roster, coming on the heels of the signing of former Houston Texans cornerback Brice McCain yesterday.

One has to wonder, however, if this signing would be worth it.

A former seventh overall pick—albeit by the Raiders—Heyward-Bey has had a routinely disappointing career up until now, reaching a career low last season with the Colts. Still, at the time he commanded a one-year, $3 million contract with $1.5 million guaranteed.

The Steelers have only a couple hundred thousand dollars or so in their coffers right now. Any veteran they attempt to sign beyond the minimum would necessitate making another roster move.

While the Steelers can certainly use help at the receiver position after losing both Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery, one must wonder if bringing in a Heyward-Bey type of player would offer the same rewards as the signing of Lance Moore, as well as the same effect on the roster.

Heyward-Bey truly bottomed out last season, to the point where it’s hard to imagine that there’s anywhere to go but up. On 58 targets, he dropped nine passes, dropping nearly one in six passes even aimed in his direction.

With 29 receptions, his nine drops earned him a drop rate of 23.68, which was the second-worst in the entire league, ahead of only Davone Bess of the Cleveland Browns, who himself has already been released.

The worst drop rate among qualified Steelers receivers was Cotchery, with a rate of 8.00. A season ago, Moore had a drop rate of 9.76, which was uncharacteristically high for him.

With 29 receptions for 309 yards and one touchdown in 11 starts—before being benched toward the end of the year—Heyward-Bey truly reached new lows. It would be difficult to argue against that.

If he’s seeking anything more than a veteran-minimum qualifying contract from the Steelers, then he is certainly looking in the wrong place, though given his display last season and the fact that this is his first known visit of the offseason, he may be amenable to that.

So the worry, then, becomes whether or not his presence on the roster would present a hindrance to the development of the bottom of the roster, particularly Markus Wheaton, who could be in line to start in his second year.  But it also affects Derek Moye and Justin Brown, as well as any draft pick at the position, of which there is virtually guaranteed to be at least one, if not two.

The wide receiver position is more amenable to inexperience than is cornerback, particularly on this team, which is why the McCain signing to me makes more sense than kicking the tires on Heyward-Bey in an effort to insulate oneself against the shortcomings of youth and inexperience.

When it comes to wide receiver, I’m not convinced that the Steelers shouldn’t turn it over to the youth, and I question how much Heyward-Bey could offer to this roster after last season. Of course, if he’s signed to a low-risk veteran-minimum contract with no guarantee to make the roster, that’s another matter entirely.

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