Al Davis loved players with the potential of Darrius Heyward-Bey.
The late Raiders owner (and coach) loved speed, swagger, and, above all, winning.
Those are among the reasons Davis drafted Heyward-Bey in the first round of the 2009 Draft out of Maryland. Davis envisioned Heyward-Bey blossoming into the next Cliff Branch and Tim Brown, fast, explosive receivers that drew fear into opposing defenses.
Unfortunately for Davis and the Raiders, that kind of production from Heyward-Bey never materialized in Oakland. Heyward-Bey totaled just over 2,000 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns in four seasons with the Raiders. He caught 29 passes for 309 yards and a touchdown in his lone season with the Colts. Drops have plagued his career to this point, as Heyward-Bey dropped nine passes last season in Indianapolis.
Al Davis loved speed, especially from his play makers. That's the first thing mentioned in Heyward-Bey's college scouting report, with his best 40 time being clocked at 4.30 seconds. Some of the negatives in Heyward-Bey's scouting report have proved to be prophetic thus far in his career: "Long-legged and struggles to generate consistent separation out of his cuts. Not as consistently effective on jump balls as he should be, considering his natural size advantage. Too often double-clutches the ball. Questionable toughness running across the middle. Lacks strength and consistent effort as a downfield blocker."
Heyward-Bey's career hasn't been a total bust. He had a solid 2012 campaign that saw him set career highs with 64 catches for 975 yards. He tallied three 100-yard games that season that included a 155-yard effort against the Lions. He caught at least four passes in 11 games that year.
The 6'2'', 210 pound Heyward-Bey's finest season came when he finally had a quality starting quarterback in Carson Palmer under center. Now, Heyward-Bey gets to catch passes from Ben Roethlisberger, one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. While Palmer was acquired by the Raiders during the 2011 season, Heyward-Bey will have five months to gain a rapport with Big Ben before the season begins.
Five years ago, Heyward-Bey arrived in Oakland as the potential savior for a sagging franchise. That's not the case now as the 27-year-old veteran heads to his third team in as many seasons. He'll merely be asked to add depth to a receiving unit that has already has its marquee receiver in Antonio Brown. Whatever Heyward-Bey is able to contribute is essentially a bonus.
After a six-year span that produced three Super Bowl appearances and two titles, the Steelers have endured consecutive 8-8 seasons and three straight years without a playoff win. The team wants to win now, and if Heyward-Bey can contribute to team success, his arrival in Pittsburgh will be remembered as such. It's not about stats with Heyward-Bey now, for as his former owner once said, "Just win, baby."
But if Heyward-Bey is able to realize the potential Al Davis saw in him, it will make the Steelers offense that much more potent. It will also draw the ire, somewhere, from the most hallowed Raider of all.