Darrius Heyward-Bey’s career arc hasn’t turned out like he hoped. The 7th overall pick of the Oakland Raiders in 2009, he wound up playing four mildly productive seasons. His team didn’t see much success either, never finishing above .500.
But he’s carved out an important niche in Pittsburgh. And with it, experienced team success and a chance to chase his first ring.
“It’s a blessing. My first four years in the league I never went to the playoffs. And to go three years in a row. And especially with this team, this organization, it’s a blessing,” he told reporters in an interview posted on Steelers.com yesterday.
Heyward-Bey also made the playoffs with the Indianapolis Colts in 2013, losing in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
He’s become a vital special teamer but Sunday, showed the value he brings offensively. His 66 yard reception kept momentum on Pittsburgh’s side, and was the second-longest play in his NFL career. He is also the team’s best run blocking wide receiver, and often comes onto the field when the Steelers want to go heavy, while his speed serves as caution to defenses who want to counter by stacking the box.
Ben Roethlisberger certainly showed faith in him, finishing tied with Markus Wheaton for second on the team in targets with five. Several of those, including the 66 yarder, were vertical shots.
Heyward-Bey is known as a hard worker and team player, looking past his lofty draft status and putting in the grunt work typically expected from less touted prospects. He’s owned the type of player he is and few players in his position have been able to do that so seamlessly.
He was quick to praise his teammates when asked about the adversity the Steelers’ face.
“When it comes to Fitz, he’s a really good running back. Pays attention in meetings,” responding to what Toussaint brings to the team. “He’s on top of the details. In this type of offense, you need to be. We didn’t run the ball great yesterday, but he did a great job filling in, picking up protections. If he has to go in and play, he’ll do well.”
Martavis Bryant will assume his spot as the #3 WR for Saturday’s playoff game, scuttling DHB back to the bench. But if he’s called upon, he’s shown the ability to be a positive contributor for this team on offense while excelling as one of the many excellent special teamers.