We have already spent a fair portion of this offseason dissecting the struggles that have plagued wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey throughout most of his career, which can be primarily traced back to his tendency to drop footballs.
It helped get him benched by the end of last season during his one year with the Indianapolis Colts, despite the fact that they were receiver-starved with Reggie Wayne missing the majority of the season with a torn ACL.
But he comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers with a (relatively) clean slate, having been brought in as a depth signing, with no actual guarantees to make the roster.
He said himself that he came to the Steelers because he saw it as an opportunity for him to “continue to play football”. Which explains why a former top-10 draft pick five years into his career signing for veteran-minimum for a non-starting opportunity.
So we now approach Heyward-Bey free of expectations, and consider anything that he gives to the team this year as a bonus.
What he does bring with him is 169 career receptions, 2380 yards, and 12 touchdowns. On a more physical note, he brings a 6’2” frame and exceptional speed, which is why the Oakland Raiders drafted him in the first round to begin with.
At the end of last season, after his benching, he proved with the Colts that he can also contribute on special teams and as a run blocker, which are two strong assets for a bottom of the roster candidate to possess, to go along with his physical assets.
Even though he’s older and more experienced, he understands that, with the Steelers, everybody falls in line behind Antonio Brown, who in four seasons has made two trips to the Pro Bowl, and earned a second-team All-Pro designation last season.
Never the less, he sees himself and Lance Moore as veterans as well, despite the fact that both are new to the team as of the past two months.
While Brown is at the top of the food chain at wide receiver, Heyward-Bey sees himself and Moore as the experienced players that they are, and he believes that they can help the younger receivers along, which, after the draft, figures to add at least one more to the ranks.
“(Brown) is a great player, a Pro Bowler. We respect him. He’s going to go out there and ball. He’s our leader. But me and Lance Moore have been in the league a long time, we are going to follow him and have the young guys follow us, and kind of do it that way”.
Though not much is expected of him, it’s good to hear Heyward-Bey speak about a willingness and desire to contribute his knowledge to the younger players on the team.
While he may have had his struggles with drops in the past, you don’t last this long in the league—even as a former first-rounder—if you can’t play. He’s a player who loves the sport, and he’s got a clean record off the field. Even if he ultimately contributes little, he could be a good influence for the team, particularly the young receivers.