Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Another signing for the special teams, and DHB comes in for a visit (from DVD to DHB)

Presumably, the Steelers' addition of former Houston Texans' cornerback Brice McCain is for the Curtis Brown role, which was special teams gunner and deep depth at corner. That's a fungible role that was filled at the end of last season by 5'9" Antwon Blake, who is still on the roster.

The Texans' defense was dreadful last year, and McCain was a part of that. For what it's worth, Pro Football Focus ranked McCain as 110th of the 110 corners it rated in 2013.  McCain is listed as 5"9, 185, which means he's probably 5'7", 173.

McCain is fast, but so was DeMarcus Van Dyke, another gunner/corner the Steelers tried for a while. Mike Tomlin always called him by his initials, DVD, but he was basically just a really fast, overdrafted guy from Oakland who couldn't play.

Darius Heyward-Bey scoring a touchdown for Oakland
vs. the Steelers in 2012, with Ryan Mundy
being dragged into the end zone. 
Speaking of really fast three-name guys from Oakland who can't play, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey ("DHB") visits Pittsburgh on Wednesday.  Eh.

Heyward-Bey was notoriously and spectacularly overdrafted by Al Davis as the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft, a pick that was roundly criticized by just about anybody outside of Oakland, and DHB lived down to the low expectations.

Heyward-Bey's career has been marked by drops, sporadic flashes and, at the end of last year's stint in Indianapolis, a lack of playing time -- except on special teams, where he played admirably well as ... you guessed it ... as a gunner on the Colts' punt-coverage units.

For all we know, the Steelers may want to see if he can help on special teams, too. They need a kick returner, although DHB has never had much success at it.

One guy who has had some success at returning kickoffs is new running back LeGarrette Blount. Here's what Bob Labriola of Steelers Digest wrote:
"... a description of Blount’s running style can be found in his kickoff return statistics. Doing it for the first time in the NFL during the 2013 season with the Patriots, Blount averaged 29.1 yards per return with a long of 83 yards. He is a big guy who is quick to speed, and while he cannot be described as nifty, Blount has enough of a speed-power combination to make him dangerous to a defense."
No kidding. Have you ever tried to tackle a big, fast guy like that, a determined battering ram already up to full-momentum speed, head down, with a 15-20 yard head start? It isn't pleasant. Nope, such collisions tend to be violent, but then again, collisions on kickoff returns (and most other plays) tend to come from all sorts of angles and with multiple players converging on the ball carrier. They're rarely, head-on, one-to-one collisions.

It wouldn't hurt to see if a really fast guy like Heyward-Bey can avoid those collisions altogether.

Frankly, we have no idea what the Steelers have in mind for DHB, just like we don't understand so many of the Steelers' personnel decisions. Maybe they just want DHB to replace DVD.

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