With it now looking like Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant will miss the first four games of the 2015 season due to him violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, the team will likely need veteran wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey to step in and take over the third-receiver role in the offense.
During his Thursday press conference, head coach Mike Tomlin mentioned Heyward-Bey when asked to run down the Steelers group of wide receivers from a conditioning standpoint.
“Heyward-Bey continues to amaze us with his level of conditioning,” said Tomlin.
Tomlin praised Heyward-Bey quite a bit during training camp and while the former first-round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders continues to have problems with drops, the head coach has praised his ability to make combative catches over the course of the last several weeks.
While Markus Wheaton will more than likely be the starter in two wide receiver sets with Bryant out, Heyward-Bey can also play both inside and outside in the Steelers offense. He is entering his second season with the Steelers and thus should now be well-versed in the offense in addition to knowing how to play multiple positions on the field.
Like Bryant, Heyward-Bey still has the speed needed to stretch the field if needed. Additionally, he’s also a better blocker than Bryant currently is.
Last season, Heyward-Bey only caught three passes for 33 yards in the 127 regular-season snaps that he played on offense. Should Bryant’s four game suspension wind up sticking after the appeal process takes place, Heyward-Bey might very well wind up exceeding the playing time he received last season in the first four games of 2015.
“I go into every practice and every game with the mindset that you never know what’s going to happen out there so you have to be ready to go,” Heyward-Bey said Thursday, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Me and Ben [Roethlisberger] are on the same page. We talk a lot. I’m always willing and ready to step up to the plate.”