In 2009 many around the league felt confirmation of Al Davis's senility could be found in the first two players he drafted that year, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Mike Mitchell. In 2014, both of those players are Pittsburgh Steelers.
In an eyebrow-raising move, the Steelers inked Heyward-Bey to a one-year contract Wednesday, re-uniting him with fellow 2009 Raiders draft pick Mike Mitchell.
The late Raiders owner Al Davis allegedly stood strong behind both of those selections, neither of which were expected to be taken nearly as high as they were. Heyward-Bey, taken seventh overall, was a mid-to-late first round prospect while Mitchell, taken in the second round out of Ohio University, was expected to be a middle round pick.
Neither had any significant amount of success in Oakland. While Mitchell caught on with the Panthers last season, and, after filling in for starter Charles Godfrey, had a strong year overall. He parlayed that into a five-year deal with the Steelers - one that includes just $5.25 million guaranteed.
Heyward-Bey had a solid 2011 season in Oakland, catching 64 passes for 975 yards (15.1 yards per catch) and four touchdowns, but his numbers have steadily fallen since then, including his most recent stint in Indianapolis where he was benched with four games to go in the season after being a starter through the first half of the year. He had 19 catches on 40 targets through the team's first eight games, and finished the season with 29 catches on 62 targets, not registering either a catch or a target in the final three games.
A disappointment? Perhaps. This time, though, with both players back on the same team, the clear and obvious prospect is Mitchell while Heyward-Bey is drawing the "WHY?" complaints from fams. Mitchell's earned that. Regardless of where he was drafted, he's proved enough to have earned a contract at or around the amount of money he's being paid (his roster salary doesn't climb over $1 million until the third year of the deal, which is another way of saying "if you don't pan out in two years, we'll cut you"). Heyward-Bey is going to have to fight to make this team, probably against Wide Receiver To Be Named Later.
He's the real underdog now. Perhaps that serves as motivation, because the fourth receiver position for this team is wide open. And a receiver selected at a spot that would have made more sense for Heyward-Bey in 2009 has to look awfully tempting for the Steelers.