Darrius Heyward-Bey, a tall and fast wide receiver who has never realized the expectations for him since the Oakland Raiders took him near the top of the draft five years ago, has joined the Steelers' corps of wide receivers.
The Steelers signed him to a one-year contract today. He becomes the second once-high-profile wide receiver to join them as a free agent over the past few weeks. They previously signed Lance Moore, formerly with the New Orleans Saints.
Heyward-Bey, 27, was Oakland’s first-round draft choice in 2009, the seventh player drafted overall that year.
His best season came in Oakland in 2011 when he had 64 receptions for 975 yards, an average of 15.2 yards per catch.
The Raiders cut him last year and he played in 2013 under a one-year contract with the Indianapolis Colts, where he played in all 16 games, starting 11. He caught 29 passes for 309 yards.
Heyward-Bey has 169 career receptions for 2,380 yards (14.1 average) and 12 touchdowns. He started 63 games and played in 72 in his pro career.
He has something every football team covets in a wide receiver – size and speed. He stands 6-2 and was clocked running the 40 at the 2009 Indianapolis Combine in 4.23 seconds. Those two qualities no doubt are what encouraged Oakland to draft him so high in the first round from the University of Maryland.
However, Heyward-Bey’s career has been plagued by dropped passes, including nine last season with the Colts, according to Pro Football Focus.
Heyward-Bey will compete for a roster spot and whatever role he can find if he makes the team.
The Steelers lost two of their top three wide receivers, Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery, in free agency. They signed Moore, who joins Pro Bowler Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Derek Moye as holdovers from 2013.