Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is known for his "Tomlinisms" when speaking to the media. Whether it is his over-use of the word "obviously," his ability to make opponents sound almost unbeatable or those classic phrases like "The standard is the standard." Anyone who follows the team with regularity knows them verbatim.
However, as Tomlin reinforces these sayings and phrases with his team, they often embody what the coach desires from his team on game days. The "next man up" philosophy which Tomlin speaks of often can be embodied in one particular wide receiver who wears No. 88 this season. None other than wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Heyward-Bey was left on the free agent scrap-heap after a failed stint with the Oakland Raiders. He played one season with the Indianapolis Colts before joining the Steelers in 2014. Fans laughed at the signing of Heyward-Bey, but it was clear the former first-round draft pick was willing to do whatever necessary to help the team. He played special teams in 2014, and had only three receptions for 33 yards.
The emergence of Martavis Bryant seemed to bury Heyward-Bey even further down the depth chart, but when the NFL suspended Bryant for the first four games of the 2015 season, Heyward-Bey had an opportunity to prove himself worthy of playing time, and he seized the moment.
In five games, Heyward-Bey has 17 receptions for 209 yards, two touchdowns and a 13.3 yards-per-reception average. When everyone outside the organization doubted Heyward-Bey's ability to replace Bryant, he was able to do just that.
After having to sit out the fifth game of the season with a knee injury, Martavis Bryant makes his 2015 debut against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 6. This will bump Heyward-Bey down on the depth chart, but don't think such a demotion will have much impact on a player who clung to special teams in 2014 to keep a job.
"My focus is whatever Coach Tomlin needs me to do," Heyward-Bey told Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "My job is to play every position on the field, whether it is X, Z or F. Whatever they need me to do, I will do."
Even though his snaps may decrease, Heyward-Bey has proven he is more than capable of producing if given the opportunity. Even if Heyward-Bey is now continuing his role as the next man up, that next man up is a playmaker waiting in the wings for his number to be called again.