PITTSBURGH (AP) – Robert Golden made it in the NFL by turning himself into a special teams ace. Darrius Heyward-Bey remained in the league by doing the same.
The Pittsburgh Steelers rewarded their hard work with new contracts. The team signed Golden, a safety, and Heyward-Bey, a wide receiver, to three-year deals on Monday before the two hit the open market as free agents.
Golden set career highs in tackles (36) and passes defended (four) while adding his first NFL interception in 2015. The 25-year-old Golden made the Steelers in 2012 as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Arizona and quickly made a name for himself on special teams. He appeared in 63 games, with three spot starts in the secondary and served as the special teams captain each of the last two seasons.
Golden is the first of what could be several re-signings by the Steelers heading into free agency later this week. Veterans Will Gay and Will Allen are among those Pittsburgh is interested in bringing back for 2016.
Heyward-Bey, a former first-round pick by the Oakland Raiders in 2009, has revived his career with the Steelers. He caught 21 passes for 305 yards and two scores in 2015 and added a 58-yard catch-and-run in the AFC divisional playoff loss to Denver.
The 29-year-old was the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft before moving on to Indianapolis in 2013 and the Steelers each of the last two seasons. He won over the coaching staff with his blocking and has developed into one of the team’s top special team players while taking on a larger role in the passing game last season. Heyward-Bey has 193 receptions for 2,727 yards and 14 touchdowns in his seven-year career.