Steelers sign Golden, Heyward-Bey to 3-year contracts

Mark Kaboly
| Monday, March 7, 2016, 9:36 a.m.

The Steelers weren't typically active during the first couple of days of NFL free agency.

It has been a different story the past two seasons.

The Steelers used the hours before the start of free agency Monday to sign a pair of their own players — safety Robert Golden and wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey — to three-year deals.

Golden's deal is worth $5 million, which is only a slight raise from last year's salary of $1.54 million. Heyward-Bey's contract is worth a reported $3.8 million. Heyward-Bey made the veteran minimum of $795,000 a season ago.

A year ago right before free agency, the Steelers released Brett Keisel; made a statement about Troy Polamalu's future with the team; signed Arthur Moats and Matt Spaeth; and tendered restricted free agents Golden, Antwon Blake and Will Johnson.

The NFL's new league year begins 4 p.m. Wednesday. Any of the Steelers' remaining 17 free agents can sign elsewhere, including William Gay, Ramon Foster and Kelvin Beachum.

The Steelers retained two key parts of their team rather cheaply.

Golden was an undrafted free agent in 2012 out of Arizona. He made his mark mostly on special teams before filling in for the injured Will Allen at times a season ago.

Golden, 25, also played critical role in the specialty defense, during which the team replaces linebacker Lawrence Timmons in passing situations with a third safety.

Even with the signing, it is unlikely that the Steelers automatically plug him into the starting role next to Mike Mitchell. The Steelers could address the position in free agency, the draft or the hope Shamarko Thomas bounces back from a poor 2015 season.

“I like to thank the #Steelers organization for giving me the privilege to continue to chase Lombardi #7 with this team! It's an honor! Back in the Burgh for another one!” Golden posted on Twitter.

Golden, the Steelers' special teams captain, made three starts and had an interception and 36 total tackles. He added four special teams tackles.

Heyward-Bey's signing was a bit more of a surprise, considering his age and his role.

Heyward-Bey, 29, is a clear No. 4 receiver behind Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant. Rookie Sammie Coates had his best game in the Steelers' playoff loss to the Broncos.

Heyward-Bey signed one-year contracts in each of his first two years with the Steelers for the minimum salary. Last year, he signed a one-year deal worth $795,000, but not until April 3. Heyward-Bey will make $1.26 million per season under the new contract. The veteran minimum for seven to nine-year veterans in 2016 is $885,000, although only $600,000 would count against the cap.

Heyward-Bey had 21 receptions for 314 yards and two touchdowns last season and added two catches for 64 yards in the postseason.

A former first-rounder, Heyward-Bey spent four years in Oakland before a one-year stop in Indianapolis.

Note: The NFLPA released all 32 teams' adjusted salary-cap numbers Monday, which include each team's carryover and other adjustments from the previous season. The Steelers came in at $157,628,978, a little less than $3 million over the league's announced $155.27 million salary cap. The Steelers were able to roll over $3,000,327 from last year but had $641,349 in adjustments that brought their adjusted number to $157,628,978.

Mark Kaboly is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. He can be reached at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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