As we get closer and closer to the point at which it is necessary for the Pittsburgh Steelers to begin making serious personnel decisions, it is not surprising to hear certain discussions beginning to take place, or to heat up.
One of the popular conversations surrounds veteran wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and his value in his primary function: catching passes. With that in mind, I thought it would serve to provide some context behind that with our charting data.
Removing one snap in which he served in the role of victory back, Heyward-Bey played just 234 non-penalty snaps on offense. Of those, 77 came on running downs, which accounts for just under 33 percent of his total snaps played.
I have him participating on 139 non-penalty passing snaps with the exclusion of plays that resulted in sacks or quarterback scrambles. Of those, only 24 came in formations with fewer than three wide receivers on the field, so when he was in passing situations, he was competing with at least two other primary pass-catchers for targets.
It is little surprise then that he was only targeted, by my count, a total of 21 times in the passing game, and the majority of those targets came while playing with Landry Jones under center. Nine of his targets came in the game against the Patriots in the regular season, while another three were in the regular season finale against the Browns.
Those plays resulted in only four completions, though for a total of 68 yards. He also had a 14-yard touchdown reception against the Patriots negated by a penalty that was questionable on the right tackle for a hold.
Of his incompletions, I have him marked down as having two drops when targeted by Jones, both of them on short passes. I also marked him down for a third drop on a short pass thrown by Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger targeted him a total of eight times, with five of those targets coming on deep passes. One of them resulted in a 31-yard touchdown reception. He also added another four deep targets from Jones, demonstrating that a large percentage of his targets came on low-percentage vertical passes down the field. His average depth of target was over 20 yards down the field.
In all, he finished the regular season with just six receptions, but for 114 yards, averaging 19 yards per reception, with two touchdowns. He also scored a touchdown on a 60-yard end-around. But his biggest opportunity came in 2015 during Martavis Bryant’s suspension.
In the first four games of that season, with the veteran playing a more prominent role in the passing game, he caught 15 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns. Naturally, after Bryant returned, his role was greatly reduced.