Steelers: The renaissance of Darrius Heyward-Bey


Renaissance – The revival of art and literature under the influence of classic models in the 14th-16th centuries.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers signed former first round wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey to a contract in 2014, it was seen as a chance to add a veteran presence to the depth chart after losing Jerricho Cotchery in the free agent market. Although the Steelers had much talent at the wide receiver position, they were quite raw at the time.

Heyward-Bey more than likely caught the Steelers’ eye after starting in eleven games for the Indianapolis Colts in the 2013 season when he replaced an injured Reggie Wayne in the lineup. He caught 29 passes for 309 and a touchdown from sophomore quarterback Andrew Luck. It would also be the first year he would ever make the post season in his career since being drafted in 2009.

Wanting to prove that he could move on from his rocky career in Oakland that brought about talks that he was a bust in the NFL, Heyward-Bey made his way to the city of Pittsburgh. Though he would only have three receptions for 33 yards, DHB made quite the contribution on the special teams squad. Not too many former first round picks take to doing the less than noticeable work that comes with fielding kick offs and punts.

When the Steelers offered to extend his contract back in May, it was met with much criticism. “We don’t need him. We have Brown, Bryant, Wheaton, and now Coates. “He’s washed up and a bust. What a waste of money.”

Never slow to express their outrage, Steelers’ Nation was in disapproval. It was not understood at the time that Heyward-Bey’s presence would be invaluable as the season started.

It late August the stunning revelation that Martavis Bryant would be suspended for at least four games was announced. It was later noted that the organization was fully aware that their star sophomore receiver could be suspended during the year, which lead to the drafting of Sammie Coates and Heyward-Bey’s resigning.

Even with the absence of Bryant, Heyward-Bey was expected to be a non factor. Antonio Brown is still as dominating as ever, Markus Wheaton is coming into his own as a second option at receiver, and Coates needs the experience on the field. Heyward-Bey couldn’t possibly expect to see time on the field outside of his normal special teams duties.

All assumptions were thrown out the window when Coates was deemed inactive for the first game against the New England Patriots in week one.

The veteran looked comfortable on the field, nabbing four receptions for 58 yards. Building a rapport with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the former first round pick looked well in his first game of the 2015 season.

Then it happened again.

In the Steelers 43-18 thrashing of the San Francisco 49ers Heyward-Bey, showing off his ever impressive speed, beat his defending safety deep downfield and caught a spectacularly thrown pass by Roethlisberger to further the deficit. It was the first time in exactly 23 months that Heyward-Bey had caught a touchdown. He would end the contest with a total of five receptions for 77 yards.

As for Coates and Wheaton? The former was once again placed on the inactive list and the latter recorded only two receptions for 67 yards. Heyward-Bey has proven to the Steelers’ brass that he is the best option to line up next to Antonio Brown going into the future for at least the next two weeks.

What makes Heyward-Bey such a dangerous receiver is his amazing ability to get down the field. Using him the same instances as they did Martavis Bryant last year, DHB still has the same flash of speed in his late twenties that he did in 2009 when Al Davis coveted him for the Raiders’ offense. The issues with his inability to make catches have improved as he has gained experience as a veteran.

Aug 14, 2015; Jacksonville, FL, USA;Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (88) runs in the first quarter of a preseason NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

If Steelers’ Nation would have been told a year ago that Darrius Heyward-Bey would be their number two receiver after two weeks of the 2015 season, there would have been a roar of laughter around the city of Pittsburgh. One thing is for sure: No one was laughing or yelling the word “bust” when he made that 35 yard touchdown catch last weekend.

As the Steelers enter week three against the St. Louis Rams, they do so with a thunderous offense that is quite arguably the best in the league. On that offense is a wide receiver that has been under constant scrutiny his entire career. Now, going through his own personal renaissance, Darrius Heyward-Bey will continue to silence critics and help guide the Steelers to a seventh Super Bowl championship.

Next: Roethlisberger, Bryant, Tomlin

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