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.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • joed32

    Totally agree! I don’t see any value there at all.

  • Babybull

    They should have kicked the tires of Britt this guy is terrible this team is going backwords Colbert is terrible.

  • Yes sign a player who has been in legal trouble “9” times, “9”.

  • I agree, offers nothing more than a 7th round rookie would.

  • 243546

    DHB had two good seasons when he played with Carson Palmer. If the Steelers bring DHB to camp, then it would be because they thought Ben could get the same level of production from DHB, as Palmer was able to produce.

    I understand the argument of hindering the development of the young guys. The other side of that argument is what if none of the young guys prove capable of getting the job done, and the team has no other options at WR?

    The best move is to create as much competition in camp as possible. AB is the only WR who should feel secure about getting a spot on the final roster. Make everyone else earn it in camp.

  • 243546

    Santonio Holmes has less baggage than Kenny Britt.

  • Kurt Williams

    This team lost Sanders and Cotchery and signed Moore. Which means they only have 2 receivers with extended time in the league. Wheaton is still unproven, they apparently don’t have that much confidence in J. Brown or Moye. There is nothing wrong with doing due dilligence it doesn’t mean DHB will even make the team, create competion as 243546 said.

  • Steelers12328882

    I don’t think it will hinder Wheaton at all. If the kid is that good and is meant to start then he’ll rise to the occasion. I could care less about Moye and Brown if they can’t handle the competition either. DHB is fast, blocks well and can play special teams, and I think his drop rate is exaggerated. Every source I’ve looked at credits him with 6 drops last year, not 9, and 9.4 drop %. In comparison, Le’Veon Bell was credited with 6 drops as well and a 9.1 drop %.

  • Callentown

    C’mon now.. This is a guy who could not make an impact last year when Indi’s top WR went down early in the year. Speed is great, but there’s nothing else there. Draft a WR instead.

  • steeltown

    I sure hope its a vet minimum with no guarantees, if that’s the case, who cares??? They’ll still draft WR all this does is provide more competition in camp, he might not even make the final roster. If he does its either because J.Brown and/or Moye failed to beat him out in camp or due to injury, in which case I’ll be glad they brought him in now, before camp

  • srdan

    Even a little more than the minimum, I am ok with. But I don’ thtink we could afford that.

    To hinder Wheatons growth, DHB would have to be a damn good receiver because letting 2 receivers go this offseason shows a lot of confidence the FO has in 11. If DHB truly beats him out, he would have to have a monster camp and great first few games, which would really help our team.

    I am all for bringing in as many vets at the minimum to camp. Especially vets that flashed promise at one point in their careers, DHB with Palmer or Mcain a couple years ago. A change of scenery can be refreshing.

  • srdan

    The percentage of 7th round rookies that make roster has to be around 10%. Because dhb is a vet, he has to make the team or he is gone. At the vet minimum, there is no harm to the cap. In that sense you are right.

    Every other way, you are wrong. He was never worth a top ten pick. But if he were a 4th round receiver he would be looked at in a different light. Compare his stats the last 3 years with Cotcherys. Now explain to me why he is not worth it?

  • Paddy

    IF this guy hinders Wheaton then Wheaton was a bad draft pick.

  • treeher

    I can think of many other ways to waste the money.

  • Scott in Jersey

    Moye and Brown are those WR’s fans love every year, but rarely become star wideouts let alone regular contributors. WR is one of the only positions rookies regularly start at in this league. Neither was on the field enough to show they shouldn’t be challenged by bringing in competition. Brown, Wheaton and Moore will join a rookie high pick as the likely starters. If DHB is cheap and looks good sign him and cut him later if he doesn’t work out. Britt is a cancer who I am glad never came here.

  • cencalsteeler

    I’d like to see this guy brought in on the cheap. He’ll provide competition in camp. We have one of the best in Richard Mann to help him with his hands. You can’t teach speed. Also, Dwyer, when resigned, came back with more desire. Maybe DHB needed to be humbled. And at this point, I think this signing would be more of an emphasis on special teams play. I’d be o.k. with seeing Wheaton and DHB back on kick returns as opposed to Dwyer and Jones. To me, that’s an improvement from last season.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    I think Moore provides plenty of veteran presence and outside competition. The rest of the battling should be going on between Wheaton/J. Brown/Moye/Draft pick(s).

    The biggest reason is to get the Steelers receiving corps more solidified for the coming years. A guy like DHB would (at best) be around for one year? I’d rather have a young guy getting snaps and improving his game.

  • CrazyTerry

    The guy couldn’t produce under Andrew Luck. What makes you think he will do any better under Ben?

  • Paul Barracliffe

    Bey is a top ten camp body. If Moye, Brown, or even Wheaton can’t beat him out fir a spot then we have bad coaches or those players are no good. Theres no way this guy is gonna elevate his game at 28 yrs old.

  • shawn

    a lot of people think it doesnt hurt to kick the tires, but what they are forgetting is that a TEAM is only as good as how well it plays as a TEAM … not the sum of the individual talent … picking up broken players from bad organisations (raiders) that dont have winning attitudes at the cost of developing our own young talent (Brown) is not the way to make the roster better ….

    I believe that is one of the reasons the Steelers have always built thru the draft … attitude is contagious and we dont need cast offs from lesser organisations to infect our unity !

  • shawn

    Yup !

  • Jollyrob68

    Sign him and see what coach Mann can do with him although I’d prefer that they brought in Miles Austin.
    Nothing wrong with bringing in veteran wr and seeing what they have left in the tank. The Steelers still need bodies to get through mini camp & training camp.
    signing him cheap also gives the Steelers a look at what Ben can do with the tall wr he craves.

  • cencalsteeler

    I’m confused. Weren’t you just complaining last month about the Steelers not making enough moves in FA?

  • NW86

    I don’t disagree with the article, but I did want to point out how misleading that drop stat can be, especially with a small sample size. As you stated, Cotchery had the highest drop rate among Steelers. Is there anyone here that actually felt like Cotchery dropped more passes than the other WR’s last year? You have to actually look at what was termed a “drop”. Obviously, they must be counting some that he barely got his fingertips on or something.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Sign him up. I’m not sold on Moye or Brown. Moye squandered his opportunity with a big TD drop last year. Both these guys are 6-5 6-3 and slow as molasses. What are really hoping for out of one of these guys that maybe one of them will become a 5th receiver at best? Bring in DHB and let him compete with the group. If Moye and Brown beat him out so be it. We need competition to make this team better than the last 2 years 8-8 teams.

  • cencalsteeler

    Nicely stated. If the staff had faith in Moye/Brown, DHB wouldn’t even be in conversation now. There is a reason for the visit. I had my hopes for Justin Brown, but the consensus I’m gathering is a camp body/ practice squad player at best.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    I disagree with your premise that the wide receiver position is ‘amenable to inexperience.’ Highly drafted wr’s are more prone to bust than any other position and seemingly all go through at least a year of growing pains. Unfortunately, the growing pains that WRs go through often lead to turnovers with bad routes and poor post catch ball security.

    I’m not necessarily against going forward with what the Steelers have plus what comes in the draft, but I think there is considerable risk because this team needs to throw the ball to be successful.

  • shawn

    oh boyy … does it really need to be said that making moves just to make moves is not what i was talking about ..

    i have read enough of your posts to understand we have a COMPLETELY Different view of Football … sorry bud !

  • Ben Anderson

    Matthew, 9 drops in 58 targets is actually closer to one drop in every six balls.

  • Ben Anderson

    While there is little risk with signing him to a qualifying offer, why waste the reps? Just like with a few other positions, the Steelers need to develop their young WR talent. Wasting valuable reps on a guy who, while fast, is an unreliable target and has hit his ceiling is a wasted signing. Mr. Colbert, please do not sign this guy.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Excellent point! I mentioned him a while ago, as his injuries have not been devastating. Miles Austin is only 2 years removed from going to the Pro Bowl. He is 6’2″ and already has had success. He is not going to cost much as prices have come way down for most guys as this upcoming draft is so deep. Take advantage and kick his tires. DHB will probably go nowhere and waste their time.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    They are going to have to free up money on be way or the other. I wouldn’t overpay but don’t think the team is too deep for someone with his skill set.

  • cencalsteeler

    I have absolutely no problem with you and I having different views, in fact I welcome it. It makes for interesting reading and actually gives points of views that some fans have never considered.
    The problem I have is how condescending you are towards fellow Steeler fans. I take a lot of pride in being a Steelers fan and would only hope that you would represent our family in a more respectable way. Everyone is entitled to their opinion on this site, but to belittle fellow posters that you may not agree with is just uncalled for, and quite honestly, it’s very immature.

  • wdhammer

    Kicking the tires never hurt . If you can drive away with a good deal you don’t lose much if you’re not satisfied …

  • Matthew Marczi

    Cotchery had his share of drops last year. Most of them came late in the season, after everybody was already convinced that he had an amazing season. But an 8% drop rate is nothing anyway…that’s the point. In contrast, Heyward-Bey dropped nearly 1 in 4 catchable passes thrown his way. Yes, there’s some amount of subjectivity in there, but all players are subject to the same subjectivity.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I said that the wide receiver position is more amenable to inexperience than is cornerback. I can’t imagine that you would actually disagree with that.

  • Ben Anderson

    Ok, so it was 9 drops in 62 targets. Still close to 1 in 6.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    I guess I don’t think either of one of them is amenable to young players.

  • Matthew Marczi

    That’s not a necessary condition for the comparison to be true though.

  • MC

    Exactly. It shouldn;t hinder their progress cause if they were good enough they would beat him out in camp. I think people on here think he’s just gonna be handed the 4th or 3rd WR spot.

  • Louis Goetz

    I whole heartedly agree. It would be an awful signing if the Steelers were looking to make him a starter or their #3. If the season starts today he’d probably be fourth on the depth chart. There aren’t too many #4 guys out there who are better than DHB. If the Steelers get Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin or someone else they covet in the draft, DHB will either be the #5 guy, or he’ll be on the street. I’d rather have a veteran with a proven skill set, even at #5, as opposed to a rookie or 2nd year guy who’s never going to be top 3 guy. IMHO this was a great signing.

  • CrazyTerry

    E Sanders had a lot more costly drops the last two years. Hell, BEY had several bad drops and we punish a rookie for ONE drop?

  • CrazyTerry

    Thats because Sanders drops came at some really bad times and were for passes that could have had an impact. FOr me, the timing and type of passes that were dropped should factor into a drop rating.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Moye’s TD drop was Limas Sweed like! Right thru his hands. You and I both know Moye will be lucky to make the team even if they hadn’t signed DHB. If he was special he would have dressed for more games and been a part of the offense.

  • shawn

    sorry u feel that way … didnt mean to come off that way .. ur original reply actually came off with a little attitude .. but i guess its hard to tell sometimes with the written word … I’m all for opinions from all Steeler Fans no disrespect intended … but we do have clearly different views regarding the team which I’m ok with …

    but i think too many fans on here always try to spin everything in a positive way … I’m just not built like that … i call it like i see it … so after consecutive mediocre seasons u can see that i find some faults with some of our moves !

  • shawn

    what is the most valuable commodity in the world ???? thats right “TIme” the exact thing we are wasting when messing with a bust like DHB !

  • wdhammer

    you mean like when the pats sign a guy for 1 yr and get some productivity out them . you never know a change is sometime better as a fit for a player .. I’m not thinking all pro believe me..

  • shawn

    i would be all for it if i thought he even had the remotest of upside …. but i dont think he does … and the worst part is dropping balls can become contagious … wouldnt want him anywhere near our other WRs !

  • wdhammer

    I’m for a look see ,nothing ventured nothing gained . If he has the drops cut him in camp .. Plus I think the steelers will draft a wr ..He knows this may be his last go around and sometime it wakes you yup .We’ll see.