Darrius Heyward-Bey The Forgotten Man At WR

It seems as though about half the time these days the Pittsburgh Steelers are playing with at least one of their top three wide receivers down. Sunday night will be yet another game of that variety, with rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster serving a one-game suspension for reasons I don’t even want to get into.

The point is, however, that throughout the season so far whenever there has been a vacuum in the number three receiver position, nobody has managed to step up and do much of anything about it. Third-year wide receiver Eli Rogers has been given the most opportunities and gotten very little out of it.

Sure, he has made a couple of plays here and there, but it has been about as many as he has failed to make, on the flip side. Meanwhile, we are still waiting with bated breath for Justin Hunter to justify his roster spot. He had that one third-down conversion and that’s about it. He was given a golden opportunity a couple of games ago and literally dropped it.

In that aforementioned game, which Smith-Schuster sat out due to a hamstring injury, the Steelers did get Darrius Heyward-Bey some work on offense, more than he typically gets, but it ended up being pretty much all on running plays.

Given the lack of productivity, relative to opportunity, that we have seen from Rogers and Hunter, I see no compelling reason why Heyward-Bey should not be given more opportunities in Sunday’s game to run with the top two wide receivers.

After all, he knows the offense better than either Rogers or Hunter does and is more capable of lining up in every position. His ability as a blocker, and his speed as a decoy, only further reinforce, for me, the logic of giving the veteran wide receiver an opportunity to be a contributor—an opportunity that he has acknowledged that he very much wants to have.

There will be Antonio Brown, and there will be Martavis Bryant, of course, and they should take up the bulk of the targets, with a mixture of passes going in Le’Veon Bell’s direction as well. But there will still be that handful of opportunities for a third wide receiver to make an impact on a game.

Heyward-Bey has only been given one target in the passing game so far this season, on a deep pass, which admittedly possibly should have ended up in a touchdown. He’s been the good soldier for a long time now and can’t possibly drop more passes than the rest of the group has been lately—including Brown.

The man works his behind off and has consistently put the team first. He should be considered a captain in the locker room for all the things he does that we rarely get to see. You may have noticed, or read about, him keeping Smith-Schuster off the field at the end of the game on Sunday. He has some capability as a receiver for a role nobody else has claimed, so why not him?

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Steeler Nation!

    No way. He’s the worst of the group. He is on the team only for ST purposes, and surely this is his last go round.

  • miller time

    I’m a big fan of DHB. You can tell he is 100 percent dialed in on special teams. That’s saying a lot for a guy that came into the league with such a high profile. Class act. I hope he gets a chance this week and sticks it to the crows.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    You are preaching to the choir when it comes to me Matthew. I have been in DHB’s corner and have never really understood his reputation, at least as far as it goes with the Steelers. Bryant has always had questionable hands, Coates had questionable hands, Mcdonald has questionable hands, and now Rogers has been a little butter fingery as well and yet all I ever hear when DHB is brought up is how he can’t catch. I seem to remember a few big TD catches he has had for us.

    Not only does he deserve some reps but he really isn’t a downgrade over a guy like Hunter. Rogers is a better route runner and does typically have better hands but he hasn’t been effective lately.

  • Smitty 6788

    Did you really just compare AB playing with a sprained big toe and no practice all week to DHB stone hands??? Smh but I agree DHB should play more but only bc Rogers and Hunter have proved to be ineffective. Plus if Vance plays they give us excellent blocking along with Bryant.. We’ll need that blocking against the Ravens. I feel we can exploit their nickle run D with our 3wr package much easier than clogging the box with ridiculous heavy personnel packages.

  • Steeler Nation!

    DHB has had alot of chances-no so much this season, but over the last 3 seasons. And he totaled 30 receptions over that span, with alot of drops, not adjusting to the ball, and being invisible overall. All the others you criticize have their warts. But they also contributed alot more and in short periods of time. Coates almost equaled DHB’s 3 year contributions in the first 5 games last year, and Rogers surpassed him by miles. If we come to a point where we need him to make plays for us at WR again, we are dead.

  • Steve Johnson

    The forgotten WR? Ha! What has he done or contributed as a WR to make us remember him? Bottom line is this, after A.B, JuJu and M. Bryant, the Steelers are weak at the WR position. I hope they realize this and upgrade to a better Corps of WR’s next April. One could easily argue that New England has a better Corps of WR’s than Pittsburgh.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    You might want to take a look at the numbers SN. I’ll provide them for you:

    2016

    Coates: Snaps – 313 Targets – 49
    DHB: Snaps – 233 Targets – 2

    So yeah, it would make sense for Coates to have better numbers since they targeted him significantly more and he played more snaps. But now lets look at the numbers when DHB was given a similar amount of targets:

    2016 Coates: 49 targets, 21 receptions, 435 yards, 2 TD’s
    2015 DHB: 39 targets, 21 receptions, 314 yards, 2 TD’s

    As for Rogers, the main problem with comparing the 2 is that they have different roles. Rogers is a slot guy and is targeted far more (66 times in 2016) so of course his numbers should look better.

    And now to talk about dropped passes which everyone loves to associate with DHB lets look at some numbers.

    2015 dropped passes according to SportingCharts:

    Bryant: 92 targets, 9 dropped passes and a drop rate of 9.8%
    DHB: 39 targets, 0 dropped passes and a drop rate of 0%

    2016

    Coates: 49 targets, 5 dropped passes and a drop rate of 10.2%
    DHB: 19 targets, 1 dropped pass and a drop rate of 5.3% (same as Bell actually)

  • JAMESH

    Just once…… just once………… opening drive, first play, deep ball to DHB on right side. If not good, second play……..deep ball to MB on right side. If not good, third play………….deep ball to AB on right side. CB should be thoroughly winded by then. Shock and awe!

  • Steeler Nation!

    But why did he receive so few targets? There’s a good reason why. His route running is poor. He is a straight line speed guy with below average change of direction, ball tracking, and overall production. He’s worn out his welcome here, especially on offense. We’ll be moving on from him after this season I bet. Its past time.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Again, you are misinformed. How many different routes did Coates run? Almost every ball to him was just run deep and go get it. And while we are on the subject, how many different routes does Bryant really run? It is either slant or go deep. He had 10 fewer targets than Coates but the same amount of catches so what does that tell you? He was more productive when given the chance.

    And as for wearing out his welcome you definitely are out of the loop. He is well liked by the team and coaches and that is why he is still on the team despite not getting many oppurtunities on offense. Tremendous ST value and a great locker room guy.

  • David Shoff

    I was a big supporter of Rogers, but he has clearly lost confidence, like Coates did last year. DHB, when given the chance has done better thanI thought he would, catching some long balls from Ben, and had a super td on an end around. Hunter shows nothing as well so why not give dhb a shot.

  • PaeperCup

    Oh yeah…

  • 20Stoney

    He’s worn out his welcome? How exactly has he done that? By busting his butt on a regular basis?

  • 20Stoney

    DHB is a guy some people are going to hate on no matter what he does. He was horribly miscast by his draft position, but is a solid bottom of the depth chart type receiver at this point of his career. He’s no way perfect but he does a lot of things well. As soon as he drops a pass you’ll have the “I told you so” people going nuts while they won’t give much thought to Bryant doing the same.

  • Rick McClelland

    DHB all the way. Don’t forget about Finney, he is available too. LOL.
    I had to double check the writer of the article because as soon as I saw it I thought of all the flack my son and Alex gave me over the summer about DHB.
    Put him in the game. He’s got to be more sure handed than some of the others we have been sending out there.

  • Joel Miller

    Terrible idea. He’s literally got the worst hands of any pass receiver on our team. That was before the season and he has gotten empirically worse this season. He’s a lights out fiery special teamer. The less offensive snaps for him the better. I’ll take my chances with Eli or Hunter.

  • NimbusHex

    “can’t possibly drop more passes than the rest of the group has been lately”

    You’re vastly underrating Hey-Bey’s ability to drop passes.

  • nutty32

    Should have had a big TD in the Lions game if not for a badly overthrown Ben ball.

  • Steel City Slim

    I trust DHB way more than Rogers or Hunter

  • k33ger

    Eli is not getting it done this year. I don’t know why, but he isn’t.

    I think we would benefit strongly from putting DHB and Bryant out there to do slants and deep routes, and have AB do more slot work. That will stress the hell out of the Ravens defense, and we can have Bell running under all of that as well.

    DHB is still one of the fastest players in the entire league. Not only that, but he’s tough. he will take a hit to make the catch.

    Is he the best WR ever? heck no. but he is capable of making plays. Also, he has played against the ravens, which Justin Hunter hasn’t. it’s a big game, and I’d rather have his experience with that as well.

    We’ll see what the Steelers do, but I was thinking of this on Tuesday that they should use DHB instead of Eli or Justin. Those guys are hot trash.

  • Steeler Nation!

    HAHA! I’m misinformed? Whatever dude. DHB is by far the worst of all those mentioned. Watch the games. Watch his routes. He’s terrible, but yes he’s been a good ST player. I still say he’s at the end of his rope. I’m out man, not gonna argue over the worst WR on the team.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    I really hope dhb retires after this season and is on the coaching staff.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    Hey bey retires. Marcus Tucker will be called up from the practice squad.

  • AndyR34

    Preach it, Phil!

  • AndyR34

    Haters are going to hate and will make up stuff to prove their point, such as:

    “DHB is by far the worst of all those mentioned. Watch the games. Watch his routes. He’s terrible”

    There is no fact there to support his opinion, only unsubstantiated assertions, based upon emotions. Critical thinking is not a core competency.

  • Jason Dock Dudley

    you just moved the goal post.

  • Steve

    DHB can still run like a deer and the guy plays Great special teams. We need to put DHB in to run the fly or block. Will give you that DHB can’t catch the ball. His attention span is small.

  • Ni mo

    Tucker ? Lol

  • Rocksolid20

    And we will give up mega yards on ST without DHB .

  • Michael Mosgrove

    hopefully by then juju has taken hey beys spot on st.

  • Thomas

    I am ok with this 😐