There’s no way of getting around the fact that NFL rosters are cyclical in nature. Every year at a minimum hundreds upon hundreds of new players under the labor market for just 32 NFL teams, each of whom field 63 players per season, plus those on injured reserve.
With hundreds of players drafted every year and just as many if not more coming in as undrafted free agents, it’s inevitable that some of the 2000-plus players with NFL contracts from the season before are going to lose their spots. Some teams see far more turnover than others on a regular basis.
As we get close to the draft, I want to do some risk assessment for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster based on their current needs and how they have handled them in free agency, compared to how they typically go about handling their business in the draft.
Asset: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey
Roster Vulnerability: Low-Medium
Role Vulnerability: Low-Medium
I don’t actually think that the chances of veteran wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey missing the 2018 roster are as great as many others do. While the Steelers appear to be largely resigned to not using him on offense—aside from the one explosive rushing touchdown he seems to have annually—he brings a lot, tangibly and intangibly, in other areas.
I also think the Steelers will be bearing in mind that they are working with an unstable group of wide receivers, with only two of them under contract for more than one season. Martavis Bryant will likely be gone next year, Justin Hunter may not even make the roster, and Eli Rogers is still a free agent. Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster are the only two current long-term pieces.
So with that in mind, I think the Steelers will be more inclined to carry an extra receiver if necessary, which basically means that they might carry six wide receivers again if it comes down to parting with Heyward-Bey.
Even factoring in a draft pick, Heyward-Bey still is likely the favorite for the number five wide receiver spot behind Brown, Smith-Schuster, Bryant, and said draft pick. Re-signing Rogers, who would likely be their punt returner, could complicate things.
And drafting two wide receivers, which as many of you have indicated recently you believe is a legitimate possibility, would really be problematic for him. While both receivers would not be guaranteed to make the roster, they tend to have a good chance and are often favored.
So that is why I have both his roster and role vulnerability as low-medium. I think there are a number of things that play into his favor, but the Steelers could attack the position in the draft. And it could also really depend on how they view Rogers. There is a strong possibility that they would favor him over Heyward-Bey if it became and either/or scenario. But he’s not even on the roster for now.