The Pittsburgh Steelers find that their 2016 season ended a bit prematurely, and are undergoing the exit meeting process a couple weeks sooner than they would have liked. Never the less, 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: 8 Years
It’s a bit hard to imagine that wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey has already been in the NFL for eight years—and three of them with the Steelers—but the fact of the matter is that the former first-round draft pick just turned 30 years old a few days ago.
The speedster had an opportunity to play a much larger role than he typically has for the Steelers in 2016 because of injury and suspension issues at the wide receiver position, but as fate would have it, Heyward-Bey himself got wrapped up in those same injury issues.
He played a pretty minor role on offense over the course of the first five games while Sammie Coates was rattling off explosive plays, although he did have a 31-yard touchdown reception against the Chiefs in Week Four.
Following Coates’ hand injury, however, Heyward-Bey’s role began incrementally to tick upward. He had a 60-yard touchdown run on an end-around the following week and had three receptions and a touchdown in the game after that.
He looked to play an even bigger role on the other side of the bye week after he was moved up to the ‘starting’ role on the depth chart, but in the first game after that, he suffered a foot injury after going downfield for a long pass, with the defensive back trailing him getting tangled with the wide receiver.
That injury sidelined him for the next six weeks, returning for the penultimate game of the regular season to participate on special teams, but he played in the season finale, hauling in a 46-yard reception and saving a touchdown after an interception by forcing a fumble out of bounds for a touchback.
He didn’t have much of an impact in the playoffs, catching just one pass for 10 yards in three games, but he was never frequently targeted, and most of his targets were on low-percentage deep passes—though he does have his drop issues.
Outside of his offensive contributions, however, Heyward-Bey is a standout both on special teams as a coverage player—particularly at gunner—and in the locker room, as many of the younger wide receivers look up to the veteran. He is also the team’s most reliable blocker in the run game at the position. He has plenty of value to the team outside of catching passes, which is why he is entering his fourth year here after reinventing himself.