Heyward-Bey: 'I'm ready'


He's been referred to by the head coach as a football player first and a wide receiver second, and that's OK with Darrius Heyward-Bey.

"I take that with a lot of pride," Heyward-Bey insisted. "I come in here and try to do my job on special teams and on offense, even just being a mentor to the younger guys.

"This game's about life and I try to provide that for everybody. Some failure, some good things, there's a lot that happens in football and in life in general. I'm just glad I've learned from my experiences.

"It took a while, but I'm glad I figured it out."

Those experiences would include being in on more special-teams tackles (five) than he had pass receptions (three) last season, his first with the Steelers.

Heyward-Bey, 28, also knows what it's like to be a seventh-overall pick in the NFL Draft (as a defense-stretching burner out of Maryland by Oakland in 2009), and to have a 975-yard season receiving (with the Raiders in 2011, when he averaged 15.4 yards per catch).

The speed has always been there.

And since arriving in Pittsburgh Heyward-Bey has also been identified as a highly-conditioned athlete and considered on a par with the likes of wide receiver Antonio Brown and linebacker Lawrence Timmons in that regard.

No wonder Heyward-Bey has been identified by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as the player whose role will expand while wide receiver Martavis Bryant serves his two-game suspension.

The top photos of wide reciever Darrius Heyward-Bey from the 2014 season.

"I'm ready," Heyward-Bey said. "I work hard each and every week. My confidence is high and I'm just going to go out there and play football."

He did that for four seasons in Oakland, where he started 52 of 56 career regular-season games, amassed 140 receptions for 2,071 yards (14.8 per) and caught 11 touchdown passes (four in 2011 and five in 2012).

In his lone season in Indianapolis in 2013, Heyward-Bey caught 29 passes for 309 yards and one TD.

Although pass-catching opportunities with the Steelers have been few and far between, Heyward-Bey maintains he's been revitalized by his Steelers experience.

"I love football," he said. "And to have an opportunity to play here for Coach Tomlin and for this organization definitely brings a little extra motivation and energy to me. I just go out there and give it all I have.

"I'm very blessed. I'm glad to be here and I'm glad for the opportunity that's ahead of us. I think we're ready to go."

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