The calendar has now flipped over to July and that means the Pittsburgh Steelers annual training camp will be getting underway in Latrobe later this month. As usual, we have several series planned to get you ready for this year’s training camp and mine will center around preview profiles of 50 players over the course of the next 25 days. Most of these profiles will be on players who were under contract with the team in 2016.
Up twenty-first in this series is a 2017 preview profile of wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Intro: 2016 probably wasn’t a very memorable year for Heyward-Bey as the former first-round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders missed six regular season games with a foot injury. The veteran wide receiver also only managed to catch six passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns last season in addition to having a very memorable 60-yard run for a touchdown in Week 6. Most of Heyward-Bey’s production in 2016 came as a member on special teams where he registered three total tackles and recovered a fumble.
Current Strengths: As has been the case his entire career, Heyward-Bey’s straight-line speed remains his main strength and it is by far and away his calling card. He can still stretch defenses deep vertically. His second-best attribute heading into 2017 is his willingness and effectiveness on special teams. His physicality bodes well for him in that phase of the game as does his speed and he made a few combative catches last season as well. He possesses a very strong character to boot and is a great mentor for younger wide receivers in the team’s locker room.
Current Weaknesses: Heyward-Bey’s hands continue to be a liability for him and while targeted just 19 times last season, he did have at least one notable drop. He no longer is able to get great separation consistently on intermediate routes and especially in tight coverage off the line.
2017 Outlook: Assuming Heyward-Bey ultimately makes the Steelers final 53-man roster in 2017 and there’s no guarantee that will happen, he’ll once again serve as a depth wide receiver and thus will unlikely see the field much on offense. The veteran will once again need to be factor on special teams in 2017, something he’s had to do since arriving in Pittsburgh.
2017 Base Salary: $1,200,000
2017 Salary Cap Charge: $1,333,333
2017 Health Status: No known ailments exiting offseason program
2016 Health Status: Missed six games with a foot injury
2016 Regular Season Snaps Played: 233 of 1,083
2016 Stat That Matters: Averaged 19 yards per catch on six total receptions