Big Ben sees 'big role' for Darrius Heyward-Bey early

With Martavis Bryant's four-game suspension to start the 2015 season sapping some explosion from the Pittsburgh Steelers' offense, the team plans to ride a veteran at the No. 3 receiver spot.

"I knew it was coming," Ben Roethlisberger said of Bryant's suspension, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "We've been working with Hey-Bey. He's playing with a lot of confidence, and we have confidence in him. He's one of the guys who went down to Georgia with us when we worked out. We built that confidence and trust in each other. I think he'll step up and be just fine."

The Steelers' anticipation of Bryant's suspension casts Big Ben's unending praise of No. 2 receiver Markus Wheaton this summer in a different light and explains one reason he remained ahead of the more explosive Bryant throughout training camp. It also explains the apparent redundancy when the Steelers drafted rookie receiver Sammie Coates in the third round.

While Roethlisberger has been effusive about nearly all of his receivers this offseason, when asked about Coates on Tuesday, Big Ben responded: "I think you'll see a big role for Darrius Heyward-Bey."

That's Ouch Town on two levels: The first being the utter dismissal of Coates as a valid option to open the season; the second: that a potentially high-flying offense could be counting heavily on career disappointment Heyward-Bey in three-receiver sets.

The former first-round pick had just three receptions in 2014 while mostly playing on special teams. The speedster suffers from a severe case of stone hands, struggling with drops over his six NFL seasons. He has compiled 172 total receptions for 2,413 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Roethlisberger praised DHB's improved route running and noted that the wideout has played both in the slot and on the outside.

Big Ben's glowing assessment is clearly colored in light of Bryant's suspension. The Steelers' offense won't be as explosive without the field-stretching second-year player, but it will be plenty good enough to put points on the board.

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