Steelers WR Darrius Heyward-Bey Might Have To Show He’s Special In Order To Make 53 Man Roster

Should new Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey ultimately wind up making the final 53 man roster out of training camp, there’s a strong possibility that he’ll have to contribute on special teams. While playing on special teams is pretty much something that’s new to him, Heyward-Bey showed late last season that he might be able to contribute in that phase of the game.

According to December report by Mike Wells of, Heyward-Bey never played on special teams in high school or in college. In addition, he never played on special teams during his first four seasons in the league with the Oakland Raiders. That all changed late last season when the Maryland product was tumbled down the Indianapolis Colts depth chart in December because of his poor play at wide receiver. The former first-round draft pick was asked to play on special teams following his demotion and he didn’t complain about it.

“I’m taking it and running with it,” Heyward-Bey said at the time. “This is the first time that I’ve ever been in the playoffs, first time with double-digit wins. I put my ego to the side. I’m all about this team. I think we’re a special team. I just want to go out there and help anyway I can.”

In the final three games of the 2013 regular season, Heyward-Bey was credited with playing 29 special teams snaps and as far as I can tell, all of them came on the punt and kick coverage teams. In the Week 16 game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Heyward-Bey recorded the first special team tackle of his career as he raced downfield as an outside gunner to tackle punt returner Dexter McCluster for a two-yard loss. You can see the replay of that tackle in the two animated gifs below.

A week later, Heyward-Bey registered his second career special teams tackle during a first quarter kickoff against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The two animated gifs of the play are below and it’s easy to pick out Heyward-Bey as he’s the first Colts player down the field. He gets flattened at the end of the play, but helped clog the lane and appears to have been the first player to get a hand on Jaguars return man Jordan Todman.

In the playoffs, Heyward-Bey played 11 more snaps on special teams in the game against the Chiefs and was credited with an assisted tackle. He suffered a hamstring injury in that game, however, and was forced to miss the playoff game against the New England Patriots the following week as a result.

The Steelers have given Heyward-Bey a shot to continue his career, but with that shot comes having to make contributions on special teams. It sounds like he doesn’t consider himself above it and as a result, Steelers special teams coach Danny Smith might very well have the final say as to whether or not he makes the final 53 man roster in September.

  • Steelers12328882

    Special teams determines roster positions every year, and he could very well grab a spot over Moye and Brown because of his speed at gunner.

  • steeltown

    That’s a good point, I was just thinking we have a number or speedsters already that are capable at gunner, like Blake, S.Thomas, Wheaton and possibly McCain.. but you’re right until Moye and J.Brown can show they can contribute in some form or fashion on ST the backend of the WR depth chart will be wide open.

    Side note, J.Brown returned punts in college

  • srdan

    Didn’t he catch someone last year from behind in preseason that was a heck of a play?

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Well there’s nothing we can do about it hes a steeler i hope richard mann can get this guy catching any and every thing and he can get some tips from ab if i was coach ill have dozens of eggs /or water balloons let him know when they scream HEADS UP objects are being thrown in his direction for him to catch

  • srdan

    Youre saying that hopefully he catches on in pittsburgh? lol

  • Alan Felicia

    I’ll go out on a limb and predict that Bey not only makes the team but will also be third on the depth chart behind AB and Moore.

  • srdan

    The more i read on other sites about htis guy the more I like him as a person. Indy fans are saying the obvious about his hands, but all of them end their posts saying that he is a great guy, great teammate and works hard. After his demotion last year he went on record multiple times asking to help other ways like ST or anything he could do to help.

    I like people like that. I’m pulling for this guy.

  • steeltown

    Yep, was after a Carolina CB jumped a route and intercepted a pass intended for Moye, he did hustle on that play. Was not kick coverage though.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    It’s best to start out with about 20 guys that are ST capable. As a matter of fact it may be essential. 5-6 will be cut, a couple will end up on the practice squad and a few will be injured. It is simply inevitable. Therefore, even if you just expect them to be backups, the difference between making the team and getting cut to those final few positions is almost always based on whether or not they can contribute on ST.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    I actually hope not. I mean I obviously want every potential Steeler to play great and force coaches to make very tough cuts. This would mean tough cuts because they are all so bloody good, not because they all stink.

    I am just fearful that he will do enough to be a #2 or 3, and then once the regular season starts, he ends up being his old self and costing them games. Hopefully, someone explodes on the scene to firmly grab the #2 spot. Come on Wheaton! Of course, it’s too early to be sure of anything.

  • dgh57

    J. Brown has to be given the opportunity to show that he can contribute first. Last preseason I remember waiting to see his skills as a PR but don’t recall ever seeing it. I hope that changes this preseason because there may be something more there both as a WR/PR.

  • steeltown

    I agree.. It seems to be one side of the fence or the other with J.Brown, some people are rooting for him and want to see more of him while others have already written him off. I remain indifferent, just hope he has a good camp. He seems to be the one young guy at the backend of the depth chart that has a little bit of everything going for him, he has size, he supposedly has some downfield blocking ability and he has some special teams ability, atleast in college anyway. I guess we’ll see.

  • Douglas Andrews


  • Douglas Andrews

    Sounds like the Steeler mentality. I’m rooting for this guy to do well

  • Douglas Andrews

    We all know his hands are what they are. If he shows some grit on ST’s he’s a lock for the 53. He may surprise us all and become a ST beast.

  • T R

    Agree with you I think he will be a good signing and ask for a lot more money next year

  • T R

    Ike Taylor hands are bad but was a great all around player. Lol.

  • Ike primary job is not to catch the ball. DHB’s is…

  • From a person standpoint, he is exactly what we look for. Willing to work, willing to block, hopefully able to push the young guys. It’s the hands that I worry about.

  • I don’t think there is any “might” about it. I think he definitely will need to be able to play STs to get a spot.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Yeah and ike might as well have no hands lol. Hasn’t hurt him until this past year when he seem to have slowed down a notch. too. Didn’t keep him from making a lot of bread in Pittsburgh