Oct 20, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (81) is unable to catch a pass while defended by Denver Broncos cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (45) during the first half at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Free Agency Suddenly Feels Unfulfilling After Pittsburgh Steelers Pick Up Heyward-Bey

The Pittsburgh Steelers were cruising right along during the first few weeks of free agency picking players and filling wholes in a very methodical and effective way – without overpaying and without having to restructure half the roster’s contracts to do so.  But, then Emmanuel Sanders left for the Broncos.  And, then Jerricho Cotchery left for the Panthers.  Suddenly the wide receiving core consisted of only Antonio Brown and a couple second year guys who totaled eight grabs and very little opportunity from their coach in 2013.

The Steelers picked up Lance Moore, who makes quite a bit of sense in my book.  At the very least he will be a very effective slot receiver – just as effective (if not more) than Cotchery.  They weren’t done there.  On Wednesday, the Steelers signed former Oakland Raider, Indianapolis Colt, and first round selection (7th overall in 2009) Darrius Heyward-Bey.  Bey is a tall and fast receiver – the two things coveted by most offenses.  Bey has also heavily underachieved since entering the league.  He is plagued by the dropsies and is ranked fairly poorly in catching efficiency.

The Steelers were on cruise control riding down that offseason highway headed towards Draft Town, USA.  But like riding down the road and seeing that Treasure Island Trinket Stand between Philly and NYC, the Steelers front office couldn’t help themselves and purchased the equivalent of a fake Rolex watch in Heyward-Bey.  He looks like a good receiver, he swaggers like a good receiver, but he really isn’t quite a good receiver.  Would anyone be surprised after the Steelers just bargained shopped just a day before one of the worst corners in the league?  Talk about two steps back.

But Heyward-Bey adds depth to a very depleted receiving core.

That depends on your definition of ‘depth.’  Depth implies that Bey is not good enough to start.  Stating that you’re comfortable with him coming in as depth also implies that Bey would be a solid contributor when stepping onto the field.  (For perspective – LeGarrette Blount is good depth)  I think he’s far from either of those and has a lot to prove in my eyes.  Currently, he is Limas Sweed, Mike Wallace, and Plaxico Burress (2nd tour) all wrapped up into one.  Sure he’s playing for the league minimum practically and still keeps the team under the cap, but if I were Ben Roethlisberger, I would be putting a dent in a concrete wall by how many times I would be banging my head up against it.  Here Mr. Franchise QB, throw to a receiver with a catching efficiency of 15% according to ProFootball Focus.

I am far from sold on Bey, and this move from the Steelers – even though it ‘fills’ a hole in the receiving depth chart – sours all the good work they’ve done up to this point (ignoring the Brice McCain signing).  I wouldn’t expect the Bey signing to steer the team away from pursuing a receiver in the first round or subsequent rounds.  However, the idea of collecting as many positional players as possible then hoping that one or two land like it’s sifting sand looking for that diamond doesn’t sit well with me.

Maybe the Steelers feel bad after the last of their 2009 draft class left the team this offseason and felt they needed someone from that year.

Maybe Bey will surprise me and many other critics.  I’ll gladly eat crow if he does.

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Tags: Darrius Heyward-Bey Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Nine

    I don’t think its a bad move. First, very little financial risk because we picked him up so cheap. Second, he’s got athletic tools – if someone can teach him how to catch a football, he could be a huge contributor. Its a good risk in my opinion. Sometimes you have to take a shot.

    • Pridenpoise

      He’s been in the league 5 years, if he hasn’t learned how to catch a ball yet, he’s not going to, but good luck with that.

      • Nine

        Time will tell.

        • Pridenpoise

          It already has.

  • Nick Ruozzi

    he’s a exact clone of m. wallace

    • Kyle

      I disagree with that assessment. But, you wouldn’t take M. Wallace (minus the ego) for league minimum? I would in a second.

      • Craig

        The thing that constantly gets overlooked when assessing potential players coming in or players signed – do they ‘fit’? Are they Steeler material? So to answer your question about Mike Wallace at league minimum – absolutely not. He’s not a Steeler and doesn’t fit. That’s one reason why there was a sigh of relief when that guy left.

        Heyward-Bey may have nature on his side (tall and fast), but he can’t catch. And, is he a good fit as a Steeler? Not sold on that.

        • Kyle

          You wouldn’t take Mike Wallace (minus the ego, I say) at league minimum?? I’m no Wallace fan at all. But, c’mon, man!
          I feel bad for DHB. He could not have been drafted under poorer circumstances. A one-trick talent, drafted waaaay too high, by the Raiders for goodness sake – and he’s been a punch-line since draft day. People think he is a bust because of some reflection of character or work ethic. Apparently those two things check out fine. Maybe he’ll make the team. Maybe not. Probably won’t matter much either way, but he’s worth a look, a that price, if we have the money to spend.

          • TiVoMan

            Sorry, Craig, I’m with Kyle and Apex Steel (above) on this move. I’m sure the Steelers will TRY to draft an “A-list” wide receiver in the draft. But then, I remember thinking that Limas Sweed was an “A-list” guy….until he came and proved me wrong. So, I think that a little “insurance” can’t hurt until we see what we get in the draft. The Steelers don’t exactly have a real good record in their recent years’ drafts!

          • Craig

            I wouldn’t take Wallace because of his track record. Same as Bey. He got out of Raiderville to Indy last season. Still didn’t do all that great with Andrew Luck who was a huge upgrade for him. Like I said – I hope he makes me eat crow. But, until then he has lots to prove IMO.

  • Mangler

    Good article Craig. My feelings exactly. It seems like Bey is a Limas Sweed clone, fast but can’t catch the ball. The Steelers are so cap crippled, it seems like a huge waste of money. I would rather see them sign Harrison or Keisel, proven players and leaders that still have a little in the tank rather than a never-was bust.

  • ApexSteel

    It’s really not a huge deal and it for sure isn’t a downer on our free agency period. We took a VERY low risk on a player with great physical tools so that he could compete for a job. If he doesn’t work out we cut him simple as that.

    • TiVoMan

      My feelings exactly, Apex.

  • [email protected]

    I really don’t see any risk in this signing, given that he ‘could’ surprise us, and that cutting him comes at no cost whatsoever.
    Granted, I didn’t like him when he was a rookie, but I don’t think we will incur any actual harm in trying him out.

  • Gary Thornton

    i agree its a low risk win win deal….we have a qb rothlesburger who makes mediocre receivers look great..ie..mike wallace and antonio

  • Jeffery Fierceblues Rahn

    There is a risk having him on the team….he could “shine” enough in training camp that a young up and coming WR is let go. Then when the season starts and the pressure to perform mounts, Bey reverts back to what he does best……choke.

  • Carl Eagan

    With Tomlin and Mann. Bey could be promoted to the #2 receiver before any real practicing begins. Then with Mile’s ego change comes slow.