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Ex-Terp Darrius Heyward-Bey excited about Steelers opportunity

Since former Maryland standout wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was drafted in the first round by the Oakland Raiders, he's had to start over a few times.

Heyward-Bey was cut by the Raiders last year after four seasons. And the former McDonogh standout spent last season with the Indianapolis Colts under a one-year, $3 million contract. He caught 29 passes for 309 yards and a touchdown in 11 starts for the Colts.

Now, Heyward-Bey is hoping to take advantage of another NFL opportunity with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He signed a one-year, $795,000 contract with the Steelers in April that included a $65,000 signing bonus.

"I'm defintely excited," Heyward-Bey said after a workout at Oregon Ridge Park. "It's always good to play the game of football I'm very blessed to play. It's definitely a great team and Mike Tomlin is a great coach."

Big and fast at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Heyward-Bey ran the 40-yard dash in 4.23 seconds at the NFL scouting combine in 2009.

That speed hasn't always translated into consistent success, though, for Heyward-Bey. Heyward-Bey caught a career-high 64 passes for 975 yards for four touchdowns with the Raiders in 2011, but dipped to 41 catches for 606 yards and five touchdowns the following season during his final year with the Raiders. He dropped nine passes last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

In five NFL seasons, Heyward-Bey, 27, has caught 169 career passes for 2,380 yards and a dozen touchdowns.

The Steelers could use a complementary presence opposite veteran wide receiver Antonio Brown. Heyward-Bey is vying for a role along with former New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lance Moore and Markus Wheaton.

"Yeah, I'm in a unique situation," Heyward-Bey said. "I've started every year I've been in this league. It's a little different being in the rotation, but I'm a team guy. I'm trying to win. I've been in the playoffs one time in my career, so it would be nice to go again.

"There's definitely a need for someone to step up, but we have some good, young wide receivers who are working their butts off. I've only been with the team for a couple of months, but they're hard workers."

At Maryland, Heyward-Bey caught 138 passes for 1,958 yards and 13 touchdowns before declaring early for the NFL draft.

He's been impressed by what fellow former Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith has accomplished since being drafted by the Ravens.

"I'm very proud of Torrey," Heyward-Bey said. "When he came to Maryland, he was raw and he worked his butt off. For him to get drafted by the Ravens, I think he's very fortunate and lucky to be with a great organization. He's done great things."

awilson@baltsun.com

twitter.com/RavensInsider

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