It was understandable that there was less than a celebration upon the signing of wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey by the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this offseason, a sixth-year veteran now with his third team after being selected in the first round by the Oakland Raiders in 2009.
The Raiders released the disappointing receiver last season, and the Indianapolis Colts gave him a one-year deal worth up to $3 million.
Despite losing starting receiver Reggie Wayne for the season, however, Heyward-Bey failed to stay in the starting lineup throughout the year, and the Colts made no effort to re-sign him after he proved unreliable holding on to the ball.
That’s why he’s now with the Steelers on a one-year veteran-minimum qualifying contract, with next to nothing in the way of guarantees. If he doesn’t cut it, he can easily be cut without damage.
As it stands, however, he still seems to be in fair position to land a roster spot as the fifth wide receiver, with his main competition being second-year man Justin Brown.
While some have been less optimistic about Heyward-Bey, Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review provided a positive spin on his inclusion on the roster during his radio show yesterday:
I’m starting to warm up a little to Darrius Heyward-Bey after watching him. Don’t get me wrong here: Darrius Heyward-Bey drops passes. I saw Darrius Heyward-Bey drop not only passes, but deep passes. Multiple deep passes. However, he did come back and make some nice catches as well.
He can play any position you want him to play—and that’s a common theme with the team this year. Mike Tomlin says the more you can do? My goodness, that’s what he’s talking about. I’m talking about every position. Darrius Heyward-Bey can definitely play every single position, including special teams. I think he was a gunner on the punts in Indy last year. He can do it all.
Out of context, that might seem somewhat more glowing than the manner in which it was presented, of course. The bottom line is that Kaboly was praising Heyward-Bey’s versatility to play every receiver position and his willingness to contribute on special teams.
Additionally, he says that while he will blow some plays, he will also come back and do something to impress you. But he added a caveat. “How good is he? That’s still yet to be seen”, he said. “But I think he brings a nice little mix to the team”.
With his combination of size, speed, versatility, and malleability, one would think that Heyward-Bey could rise to a greater level than where he currently finds himself.
But he even now continues to drop passes on what sounds like a fairly regular basis during OTAs. Will he be able to hang on to a roster spot any better than a football? The answer to that question is beginning to play out now.