PITTSBURGH -- The signing of Darrius Heyward-Bey, once the fastest wide receiver in a draft class that included Mike Wallace, does not make the position any less of a priority for the Steelers in this year’s draft.
The Steelers will still take a wide receiver with one of their first three picks as the addition of Heyward-Bey should be taken as what it is at face value: a flier on a player who should provide depth at wide receiver in 2014 but is probably not part of the team’s long-term plans.
Maybe Heyward-Bey will prove to be otherwise.
Maybe his blend of size and speed will prove to be more than the fool’s gold the Raiders concluded it was when they cut the seventh overall pick of the 2009 draft after just four seasons.
But five years into a career in which he has only once come close to a 1,000-yard season, it is not realistic to think that Heyward-Bey will suddenly put everything together for the Steelers, who are now his third team by the age of 27.
And that’s fine considering the Steelers likely signed the 6-foot-2, 219-pounder to a veteran’s minimum contract or at least a one-year deal laden with incentives.
With almost no room under the salary cap the Steelers were looking for depth at wide receiver, not a starter.
If Heyward-Bey somehow emerges as the latter it means that second-year man Markus Wheaton faltered or the former first-round pick started catching the ball with the consistency that eluded him in Oakland and Indianapolis.
Heyward-Bey, along with Lance Moore, gives the Steelers another veteran wide receiver to offset the losses of Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery. His signing does not mean the Steelers will wait until later in the draft to add another wide receiver to their roster.
A deep draft is brimming with talent at wide receiver, and the Steelers still have a long-term need at the position even though they have fortified their depth there.
They were likely to use their first-round pick on a cornerback before Heyward-Bey joined the Steelers. His addition simply makes it easier for the Steelers to address their biggest need and wait until the second or third round to draft a wide receiver.