Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: Darrius Heyward-Bey
Stock Value: Even
Well, this seems to be the story of his Steelers career, doesn’t it? Nothing really phases or affects veteran wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey nor his status on the team, no matter how many moving parts rotate around him. He is heading into his 10th season and is hoping to spend that season as his fifth in Pittsburgh.
Consider how much has changed at the wide receiver spot since Heyward-Bey was first brought in in 2014—signed after Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery both left in free agency. Aside from the obvious Antonio Brown, there was second-year Markus Wheaton, and free agent Lance Moore. Justin Brown even had a role, until Martavis Bryant in his rookie season took over things after the first six games.
You might notice that the only two names from that list that are still here are Brown and Heyward-Bey. Eli Rogers wasn’t even there yet. He was still in college. JuJu Smith-Schuster was probably in diapers. Justin Hunter was still a young up-and-comer with the Tennessee Titans. James Washington nor Mason Rudolph were just getting to Oklahoma State.
A lot of these maneuvers don’t really phase Heyward-Bey quite simply because he has a role for himself on special teams. He is a ‘starter’ on that unit, playing multiple roles over the breadth of many different units, but his most important function may be as the team’s top gunner on punt coverage. He doesn’t register a lot of tackles because he gets down the field fast enough to force fair catches.
And believe it or not, the Steelers actually do trust that he can play wide receiver if called upon, as they have over the years, though not much this past season. He can be a number three guy in a pinch if necessary, as he was in 2015 during Bryant’s first suspension.
He is also essentially a coach on the field, an asset to the entire wide receiver room in terms of his wisdom both on and off the field. Once again, it’s going to be hard to kick him off the roster in 2018, unless he loses his speed.