Heyward-Bey has finally found a home

The Steelers participate in Day 8 of the 2016 Organized Team Activities at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

It's taken a while, but Darrius Heyward-Bey has finally found an NFL home.

His new three-year deal with the Steelers was announced two days prior to the commencement of the NFL's unrestricted free-agency period in March, as much a reflection of the Steelers' appreciation of what Heyward-Bey had done for them over the last two seasons as it was Heyward-Bey's desire to continue providing more of the same.

"I think I've built a good relationship with the organization, with the Rooneys and Mr. Colbert and Coach Tomlin," he said. "You always want to call a place home and you want your teammates and the coaching staff to respect what you bring to the table. I feel like I get that here.

"I think I've built something with these guys here and I want to see it all the way through because I think we have something special."

Heyward-Bey didn't find that initially upon being made the seventh overall pick of the 2009 draft by the Raiders.
After four up-and-down seasons in Oakland he wound up in Indianapolis, where he lasted just one campaign with the Colts.

But ever since first joining the Steelers in 2014, Heyward-Bey has carved out a role that has more to do with versatility than it does putting up monster numbers.

"That's my mentality and that's what Coach Tomlin asks me to do, to be a mentor, to be a receiver, to be a special-teams guy," Heyward-Bey explained. "Whatever they need me to be I'm willing to do."

For the Steelers, there's a value attached to that, one that resonates far beyond Heyward-Bey's 24 receptions in his two seasons with the team.

His mentor role includes, "Coaching up the young guys and just being that guy for them, because I've been through it all," he said. "Being a first-round draft pick, being a starter, being a reserve guy, being a special-teams guy, I've done it all."

At receiver, "I play 'X', 'Z' and 'F,' I do it all," Heyward-Bey maintained. "I'm a slot guy, I'm a block guy, I'm everything. Young guys come up to me and say, 'Hey, what do I do on this?' And I know it all."

And in the kicking game, "I'm a gunner, I'm a jammer; the only thing I'm not on is kickoff return," he said. "On special teams, whatever they need me to do I'm there."

It's not how most former No. 7-overall picks end up.

But the Steelers perceive Heyward-Bey much more as a highly-conditioned athlete with a work ethic to match than they do a former No. 7-overall pick that didn't pan out as originally anticipated.

And Heyward-Bey is more than comfortable with who he is and what he's become.

"I'm very satisfied with the way I've approached the game," he said. "I love the game to a whole different level. It's hard for people to say that midway through their career and I found a way to do that."

He's also found a home with the Steelers.

"We just have the right coaching staff, the right people on this team," Heyward-Bey said. "Ownership believes in us and the mindset here is different. We come out here to get better each and every day. It doesn't matter if it's an OTA, mini camp, training camp or a regular-season practice.

"We come here to work and I love being around people who want to work."

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