Steelers-Ravens * Saturday, January 3 * Heinz Field
AFC Wild Card Round
Gates open at 6:15 pm * Kickoff at 8:15 pm
In April, just weeks after he signed a one-year contract with the Steelers, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey talked about why he chose to join the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent.
He was coming off one season in Indianapolis, where he enjoyed being a division champion, and headed to the Steelers, a team that hadn't been to the playoffs in two years.
"I love this sport and I love to win and I want to go to a Super Bowl," said Heyward-Bey back on April 30. "That is what this team is all about."
Fast forward to eight months later and while the journey is far from over, Heyward-Bey is definitely on the right track. The Steelers will play in their first playoff game since 2011 on Saturday night when they host the Baltimore Ravens in a Wild Card playoff game at Heinz Field.
"That's what it's all about," said Heyward-Bey. "If you don't make it to the playoffs, you didn't have a good season. Well, we are in the playoffs. We are in the tournament. This game Saturday, everything we have done as a team, it's what it's all about."
And team…well that is what Heyward-Bey is all about. A former No. 1 draft pick of the Oakland Raiders, the seventh selection overall in 2009, Heyward-Bey went from starter for five years to just three receptions for 33 yards this season.
Don't let those stats define his contribution to the team, though. Heyward-Bey, a six-year veteran, is doing what many former starters and number one picks don't do in the NFL. He is making a huge contribution on special teams.
"I'll do anything for this team," said Heyward-Bey. "I am a win type of guy. I know we have something special here, and that starts with our owners, to Kevin Colbert, to Coach (Mike) Tomlin and the guys in the locker room. I just go out there with the mindset of let's get better every day and win football games.
Check out some photos of Heinz Field from throughout the season.
"Here, you feel it in the air that we are doing something special. We have to go out and prove it each and every week. But something special is definitely happening."
That special feeling has made it easier for Heyward-Bey to accept his new role, and his attitude and drive have kept him from being any type of a distraction, something a wide receiver not getting the ball thrown to him easily could be.
"I am a receiver. We want the ball," said Heyward-Bey. "You sit back, you want to play, and you want to get the ball. Like Coach Tomlin always tells me though, 'DHB, you are a football player first and a receiver second.' I embrace that role and I don't mind doing it when you have the best receiver in the league in Antonio Brown and you are sitting back behind him.
"I am good with my role. This offseason when I came in and signed here I told myself if I want to make this team, be a part of this, I can't be selfish. I have to be about the team, which is easy for me to do. But we all have egos and personal goals. My goal was to make the team by any means necessary. I have done that and will continue to do that as long as I am here."
One of those means has included being a part of punt coverage, not a glamour job like that of receiver but one he definitely embraces.
"You have to have the mindset that I don't care about my body, my mind, you just have to go out there and ball out," said Heyward-Bey. "I think we have a lot of guys out there that have that mentality. That is why we do so well on special teams. It's not about us, it's about the team. Having our mindset to go out and get the job done, I am glad I have that in me and as a team we have that.
"We had a great mix out there. You have people like me and Will Allen who are the older guys out there. Then you have the young guys, they are hungry, we feed off their energy out there. We go out there and lead by example, show this is how we do it, how we go about our business in practice. Then on game day we bring the energy and are ready to go."
Heyward-Bey just hopes this team keeps going for a long time.