Steelers add WR Heyward-Bey

Steelers sign Heyward-Bey, remain active in free agency

April 2, 2014
The Steelers signed former Oakland wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey to a one-year deal Wednesday. - Associated Press

The Steelers lost 2009 first-round draft pick Ziggy Hood in free agency last month when the defensive end was signed by Jacksonville.

On Wednesday, Pittsburgh signed a player taken 25 picks before Hood was selected in that draft, signing Darrius Heyward-Bey to a one-year deal to bolster a depleted wide receiver corps.

The seventh pick in the 2009 draft, the speedy Heyward-Bey spent four seasons with Oakland before signing a one-year deal with Indianapolis that included a $1.5 million signing bonus last season.

He got much less than that – he’ll count just $635,000 against the salary cap – to sign with the Steelers, who needed additional bodies at wide receiver after losing Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery in free agency last month.

Heyward-Bey will join a revamped receiving group that now includes two-time Pro Bowl player Antonio Brown; Lance Moore, signed in free agency two weeks ago; Markus Wheaton; Derek Moye and Justin Brown.

Wheaton, who played sparingly as a rookie last season, is expected to get the first opportunity to replace Sanders in the starting lineup, with Moore and Heyward-Bey providing veteran depth.

The 6-2, 219-pound Heyward-Bey was a surprise top-10 pick of Oakland after running a sub-4.3-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. But he struggled with consistency and poor quarterback play with the Raiders, catching 140 passes in four seasons.

His best season came in 2011, when he caught 64 passes for 975 yards and four touchdowns. Those numbers fell off to 41 receptions for 606 yards and five touchdowns in 2012 and the Raiders allowed him to leave in free agency.

Last season for Indianapolis, Heyward-Bey appeared in 16 games, making 11 starts, catching 29 passes for 309 yards and one touchdown. He also contributed on special teams.

Heyward-Bey is the second member of the 2009 Oakland draft class to join the Steelers this offseason. Oakland’s second-round pick in that draft, safety Mike Mitchell, was signed by Pittsburgh last month.

Heyward-Bey is the seventh free agent from another team signed by the Steelers, joining Mitchell, Moore, defensive lineman Cam Thomas, linebacker Arthur Moats, running back LeGarrette Blount and cornerback Brice McCain.

In addition to Hood, Sanders and Cotchery, the Steelers have lost running back Jonathan Dwyer, defensive lineman Al Woods, tight end David Johnson and safety Ryan Clark in free agency.

In other news Wednesday, the Steelers hosted Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard and Notre Dame defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt for pre-draft visits.

Dennard is considered a first-round draft pick, and Tuitt a second-rounder.

Dale Lolley has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1993 after previously working at WJAC-TV and the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, and The Derrick in Oil City. A native of Fryburg, Pa., he is a graduate of North Clarion High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he earned a degree in journalism. He has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers since joining the Observer-Reporter in 1993, and also serves as the outdoors editor. He also is a radio host for Pittsburgh’s ESPN 970-AM, and serves as administrative adviser for the Red & Black, Washington & Jefferson College’s student newspaper.

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