I know it’s just the online depth chart but when the Pittsburgh Steelers make a bye week change, it’s notable. In their most recent version, Darrius Heyward-Bey is listed ahead of Markus Wheaton in the WR2 spot.
This isn’t much of a surprise considering Wheaton’s shoulder injury that has kept him out for much of the season and the objectively solid play DHB has brought to the team this year, even if the box score looks far from spectacular.
Wheaton has just five catches for 51 yards this season and has been one of the Steelers’ biggest disappointments and negative surprises. He’s set to be a free agent after the season and it’s looking highly unlikely he returns, even for an optimistic like me who thought he had a chance to come back before the year began.
Still, the depth chart only means so much. With a healthier Sammie Coates and the return of Eli Rogers, Heyward-Bey is unlikely to be a starter and will see a reduction in playing time. Antonio Brown is the X receiver, Coates the Z, and Rogers the slot. Heyward-Bey’s versatility will allow him to maximize the leftover scraps. We recently wrote about Richard Mann’s praise for the veteran receiver.
“Hey-Bey has done a nice job of [being versatile]. 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.”
And if someone like Rogers struggles or gets in trouble with Mike Tomlin again, it sorta looks like Heyward-Bey will be the next man up, not Wheaton, even if the latter would fit the role better on paper.
h/t Beaver Falls Hosiery