The Pittsburgh Steelers’ receivers have been hit hard by the injury bug this year. Eli Rogers’ toe injury, Markus Wheaton’s shoulder, Sammie Coates’ hand. Heck, their ironman, Antonio Brown, even got dinged with a thigh injury against the New England Patriots.
That leaves only one man who’s been healthy for basically the entire season: Darrius Heyward-Bey. Outside of some minor cramping against Miami, when it felt like the entire team had that issue, he’s been ready, available, and played a lot.
The numbers aren’t impressive at a surface-level. Five catches, 68 yards, and two touchdowns, and oh-so-close to having a two score performance against the Patriots. It would’ve been the first of his career.
It’s his versatility, the qualitative, that is his calling card. And receivers coach Richard Mann pointed that out speaking to reporters.
“Hey-Bey has done a nice job of [being versatile],” he said via Steelers.com. “Simply because he’s been around, knows this offense. One of those guys you can push him around, doesn’t need the reps, and he basically did that last week. Played all three positions.”
He’s of course referring to playing the X (weakside), Z (strongside) and slot spots. Heyward-Bey doesn’t fit the typical mold of a slot receiver but he’s the most experienced receiver on this team, breaking into the NFL in 2009, and the third most-experienced as a Steeler. Given Wheaton’s injuries, you could argue Heyward-Bey has even more experience, even if he’s a year behind in tenure.
Being a healthy, reliable target is basically a ringing endorsement given the state of this group this year. He’s a deep threat and his hands haven’t been awful as his reputation suggests. His touchdown against the Patriots was a great catch that probably doesn’t get enough credit.
When this group gets healthy, and Eli Rogers out of the doghouse, DHB could get shuttled back to the bench. But he’ll be a do-anything player for this group. Any receiver spot while covering kick and punts as one of their best special teamers.
Also, the dude got a cleat to the face Sunday. So show him some love.
When you get cleated in the eye and you're just like… https://t.co/g5QD0citrR
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) October 26, 2016