Multi-faceted Heyward-Bey embraces roles
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey doesn’t think much about his new promotion to the top of the depth chart as a starter alongside Antonio Brown.
Heyward-Bey has selflessly played a multi-faceted role since he signed with the Steelers in 2014 as a free agent, and that suits him just fine. He’s more concerned with quietly going about his job in an effort to help the team win.
It doesn’t matter if he’s the starting receiver for Sunday’s game at Baltimore, a standout on special teams or helping in the run game as a blocker.
“It’s not just words coming out of his mouth,” Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. “He means it. He’s willing to do anything and everything to give you the best chance to win.”
Heyward-Bey said he has always carried that kind of unselfish mentality. It just took a while for others to notice. Heyward-Bey, an eighth-year veteran, was drafted No. 7 overall by the Oakland Raiders in 2009 and spent a year in Indianapolis, but he found a home in Pittsburgh.
“You’re talking about a high, top-10 draft pick at the receiver position, which I coached for a lot of years, so I know the diva that can show up there,” Haley said. “He’s one of my favorite players I’ve ever been around in my 20 years of coaching.
“He’s a team-first guy, and those are the special guys that help you become a special team.”
Heyward-Bey is simply looking to produce for the team.
“I’m just doing what I’ve been doing the three years I’ve been here, just doing what the coaches ask me to do,” Heyward-Bey said. “I just want to go out there and make plays when the opportunities come to me on offense, special teams, whatever it may be.”
Heyward-Bey has scored touchdowns in consecutive weeks against Miami and New England. He flashed his 4.3-second 40-yard dash speed on a 60-yard end-around against Miami, and pulled in a laser-like dart in the corner of the end zone from Landry Jones against the Patriots.
“It’s great having a guy out there who you can trust,” Jones said. “You know he’s going to be in the right spot, you know he’s going to play hard and play physical, and he’s got great speed to get down the field. It’s kind of a comfort zone for me.”
Heyward-Bey can play all three receiver positions, but he takes particular pride in his effort, calling himself a “grinder” in reference to his blocking abilities and special teams play. It’s what brought him to this point with the Steelers.
“I just want to do whatever,” Heyward-Bey said. “If that’s 10 catches in a game, if that’s no catches and a bunch of tackles, if it’s just setting the edge on a run, whatever we have to do to win, I’m here to do it.”
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was listed as a limited practice participant for the second straight day on Thursday.
Haley said Roethlisberger remains day to day after undergoing surgery on his left knee two weeks ago, but he “looked good” in practice and.
The decision to play Sunday against Baltimore will ultimately come down to coach Mike Tomlin and his quarterback. . RB DeAngelo Williams (knee) didn’t practice Thursday after he was limited a day earlier.