The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: How much can Darrius Heyward-Bey hope to contribute as a wide receiver if he makes the roster?
Dave Bryan wrote yesterday about how veteran Steelers wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who posted one of the few sub-4.3 40-yard dash times in the history of the NFL Scouting Combine, has spent time this offseason working with his track coach from high school in order to work on his speed.
He said that he wanted to prove both to himself and to the coaching staff that he can still play with the ‘younger guys’, referring to the likes of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Sammie Coates and Martavis Bryant—but in a crowded wide receiver room, where are the opportunities going to come from?
In deference to the veteran, who joined the 30 club back in February and is the only one in the wide receiver group not in his 20s any longer, there was a time during the 2016 season in which he was actually in the starting lineup.
But it is undeniable that the series of events that led to that happening involved a lot of misfortune for others, including Bryant’s suspension, Coates’ hand injury, and the shoulder injury of Markus Wheaton. I’m not sure that if any one of those things did not happen he would have played much a year ago.
Of course, it’s pretty likely that one of the biggest reasons that Heyward-Bey wanted to work on his speed this offseason is the fact that he broke his foot a year ago and missed about half of the regular season. He wants to make sure that he still has his most important trait still intact.
Whether or not he does, however, how many opportunities can he possible get? Will it require failure on Coates’ part to re-establish himself as a deep threat after getting off to a promising start last year?
The bottom line is that Heyward-Bey understands quite well that now more than at any time in his career his roster spot is in jeopardy. No matter how much of a standout he is on special teams, this group may be too deep to carry him if he can’t be one of the top six contributors on offense.