The Pittsburgh Steelers signed free agent wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey during the offseason and while a spot on the 53 man roster is probably far from guaranteed for him right now as far as the coaches are concerned, safety Mike Mitchell, a fellow teammate of his that also played with him in Oakland, really likes his chances.
“Darrius is a very hard worker and he’s been through some adversity,” said Mitchell, according to Scott Brown of ESPN.com. “but I’m totally confident he’s going to be on this team and help us win football games.”
The adversity that Mitchell references concerning Heyward-Bey is well documented and it mostly revolves around all of the drops that the Maryland product has had since being drafted seventh overall by the Oakland Raiders back in 2009. Those drops were on full display in 2013 during his one season with the Indianapolis Colts and we’ve already highlighted them in a previous post.
Over the course of the summer, Heyward-Bey not only must show that he can hang onto the football, he’s also going to have to show special teams coach Danny Smith that he can play on several of his units.
After being benched last year by the Colts, Heyward-Bey did show that he could possibly be counted on to do the dirty work when it come to covering kicks and punts and you can bet that Smith will give him every chance during training camp and the preseason to prove that wasn’t a fluke.
With four wide receiver spots, (five if you count Dri Archer) already spoken for on the Steelers 53 man roster, Heyward-Bey will more than likely have to beat out young receivers Derek Moye and Justin Brown for one last spot. Heyward-Bey is not only more experienced than both of those players, he’s also faster and more physical than both of them. Like it or not, he’s likely got the upper hand right now on his competition.
On top of everything else, Heyward-Bey also has Steelers history on his side. As I recently pointed out, of the 41 primary free agents that Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has signed during his time in Pittsburgh, only one has failed to make the final 53 man roster out of training camp.
We now have less than 100 days until the Steelers final 53 man roster is set for the 2014 season-opener against the Cleveland Browns and at this point, I’m not willing to bet against Mitchell’s confident prediction.