The Pittsburgh Steelers find that their 2017 season ended a bit prematurely, and are undergoing the exit meeting process a couple weeks sooner than they would have liked. Nevertheless, what must be done must be done, and we are now at the time of the year where we close the book on one season and look ahead to the next.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2016 season.
Player: Darrius Heyward-Bey
Position: Wide Receiver
Experience: 9 Years
In a way it makes sense to talk about Darrius Heyward-Bey the day after Michael Crabtree signs with the Baltimore Ravens. They were both top-10 picks in the 2009 NFL Draft, and the latter made a big stink because the former was drafted ahead of him (wrongly, admittedly).
Heyward-Bey, one of the fastest players in NFL history based on his Combine-timed 40-yard dash, was all but a bust—or, well, an actual bust—in terms of his worth as a wide receiver drafted in the first round, though the majority of the quarterback play during his first four years did him no favors.
But he transformed himself during the second half of his career, or perhaps more accurately his innate qualities shone through. Never a diva type of player, Heyward-Bey was willing to put in the hard work and do whatever was asked of him, regardless of his pedigree.
Of course, by the midpoint of his career, he had no choice but to do those sorts of things in order to remain employed, but after four years in Oakland and a last-ditch effort to salvage his career as a starting wide receiver with the Colts, he has found a home with the Steelers for going on six seasons now.
The Steelers originally signed him in 2014 to provide veteran depth and special teams play, and that is what he has done. He has developed into an excellent special teams player, primarily serving as a gunner and playing on the far right lane on the kicking team, but playing other roles in the third phase of the game as well.
He hasn’t been given a lot of opportunities in recent years to contribute in the passing game, yet he does have two explosive touchdown carries over the past two years. He previously owned a role in the offense as a blocking wide receiver, but the addition of JuJu Smith-Schuster took that away.
While Heyward-Bey has avoided release so far (the team would save about $720K after displacement), he is by no means guaranteed a roster spot on the final year of his three-year deal signed in 2016. But his value in the locker room and his influence over the younger wide receivers will be considered in his value as well.