After covering Boykin’s comments about being on the opposite side of the Ravens/Steelers rivalry on the Varsity House Podcast with host Shaun Crawford, I had one fan in the comments pose the hypothetical that Boykin could be the 2022 version of Darrius Heyward-Bey for the Pittsburgh Steelers. After going through the tape and comparing both their athletic profiles, I have gotten on board with this train of thought and have made a film room to highlight the similarities the two share as Boykin looks to follow in DHB’s footsteps as he tries to make Pittsburgh’s roster after no having things work out with his first stop in the league. I appreciate the suggestion, Matt, now let’s dive in.
Darrius Heyward-Bey was a phenomenal athlete coming out of Maryland in 2009, measuring at 6’1 5/8”, 210lb and ran a blistering 4.30 40 along with a 4.18 short shuttle, 6.80 three cone, 38.5” vert, and a 10’6” broad jump. The Raiders made DHB the seventh overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft, spending five seasons in Oakland with his best season coming in 2011 where he played in 15 games (14 starts) and recorded 64 receptions for 975 yards and four TDs. However, DHB failed to live up to his lofty draft billing, never topping 1,000 receiving yards with the team and was in-and-out of the lineup due to injuries and other receivers passing him up on the depth chart.
DHB signed with the Steelers in 2014 after spending one year with the Indianapolis Colts and ended up making the roster primarily on his contributions on special teams, playing 38% of the snaps that season according to Pro Football Reference. DHB would go on to play a total of 894 special teams snaps across his time in Pittsburgh from 2014-2018.
Still, DHB managed to work his way in the offense on occasion during his time in Pittsburgh recording 33 receptions for 517 yards and four scores along with four carries for 85 yards and two scores on the ground in five seasons with the team.
While being a former top ten draft selection, DHB was the definition of a team player during his time in Pittsburgh, serving primarily as a depth receiver and made his bones as a core special teamer into his age 31 season. While also being a special teams ace, DHB proved to be a capable blocker at the receiver position, getting his nose in there and doing the dirty work to contribute to the team.
Recently appearing on the Varsity House Podcast with Shaun Crawford, Mils Boykin stated that he knows that his ability to make the Steelers also revolves around his ability to make an impact on special teams units and win as a big, athletic WR down the field. When you look at Boykin’s career to-date, there are a lot of similarities between his journey thus far and Heyward-Bey. Boykin was a third-round pick of the Ravens in the 2019 NFL Draft, showcasing impressive athleticism in a 6’4 2/8”, 220lb frame. Boykin ran a 4.42 40, a 4.07 short shuttle, a 6.77 three cone, and posted a 43.5” vert as well as a 11’8” broad jump at the NFL Combine.
However, despite his high-end athletic talent, Boykin has struggled this far making the transition to the NFL. In three seasons with the Ravens, Boykin has started 24-of-40 games played and recorded 33 receptions for 470 yards and seven TDs. Much like Heyward-Bey, Boykin too has struggled with injuries, particularly last season where he only played in eight games because of a hamstring injury. Add in the fact that he is a raw receiver in terms of being a route runner as well as occasionally struggles with drops, like DHB in his beginning years in Oakland, and you have a receiver that was on the roster bubble heading into the offseason.
This led to Boykin getting waived by the Ravens this offseason and ultimately being claimed by the Steelers who had a fair amount of interest in him during the pre-draft process. With Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, George Pickens, and Calvin Austin III all locks to make the roster, Boykin understands that his best chance of making the 53-man roster is making an impact on special teams units, much like DHB did when he arrived in Pittsburgh. Despite limited action in three seasons in Baltimore, Boykin has recorded 417 special teams snaps in three seasons, serving as a capable gunner and kick coverage guy.
Along with being a capable special teams contributor, Boykin also is a willing blocker at the receiver position like DHB, sticking his face in the fan as a bigger receiver on the outside and will make blocks down the field, some that the Steelers’ wide receivers struggled with as a unit last season.
Much like Heyward-Bey, Boykin also has that ability to contribute as a H-W-S receiver when called upon, having the speed to win down the field as well as the size and catch radius to present his QB with a big-bodied target in combative catch situations like over the middle of the field near the line-to-gain as well as in the red zone.
In summary, the hope is that Miles Boykin can benefit from a change of scenery in Pittsburgh and become a more well-rounded WR being only 25 years old, building off his physical gifts and develop into a regular contributor in the offense. However, even if he never reaches that upside that he possesses, Boykin should be able to be this era’s Darrius Heyward-Bey and play a similar role that he did for half a decade in Pittsburgh. Both share impressive athletic traits, pedigree, as well as the ability to contribute on special teams, being able to wear multiple hats and do whatever is asked of them to help the team. That would make for a great WR5 on the depth chart for years to come.
What are your thoughts on Miles Boykin? Do you think that he profiles for a similar role that Darrius Heyward-Bey had in Pittsburgh? Do you see similarities between the two? Do you think Boykin makes the 53-man roster? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!