Now that free agent safety Will Allen has signed with the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday, it means that two of the Pittsburgh Steelers three backup safeties on the roster from last season will not return in 2013.
Gone now are Allen and Ryan Mundy, who signed with the New York Giants a few weeks ago, and up the depth chart goes Robert Golden, the Steelers undrafted safety last year out of Arizona.
Golden, who is more of a free safety type than he is a strong safety, worked at both spots and in the slot as a nickel corner last season thanks to all the injuries suffered in the Steelers secondary. He played all of 46 snaps on defense, and as expected, looked like a rookie.
The most defining moment that showed Golden has a long way to go in his development took place in the Week 15 game against the Cowboys when he bit on a play action fake and failed to cover tight end Jason Witten that led to an easy touchdown reception. Golden was thrown at a total of five times in his limited playing time in 2012 and allowed four receptions for 34 yards and a touchdown.
2013 will be a year that Golden is expected to progress for the positive, and I think that he will. Hopefully, that development comes during the preseason and practice; however, as Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark will hopefully both stay healthy and on the field.
As far as the rest of the safety depth chart goes, the departure of both Mundy and Allen fully guarantees that the Steelers will address the safety position in the draft next month. It\’s not like we didn\’t see it coming, though. Competing with the drafted rookie will be Damon Cromartie-Smith, who signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2010, and Ross Ventrone, who was signed to a futures contract this offseason.
Cromartie-Smith has yet to play a regular season snap on defense, while Ventrone has all of 30 snaps played on defense during his time with the New England Patriots. Up until this point, both have spent most of their NFL careers on the practice squad.
Due to the injury history of Polamalu, combined with the position flexibility that Golden provides, the Steelers might just carry five safeties on the 53 man roster in 2013. That\’s not guaranteed, however, as the development of the drafted rookie will likely go a long way in determining the final numbers. That and special teams play, of course.
2014 could see a complete overhaul as far as starters go for the Steelers at the safety position as Clark is entering the final year of his current contract, and Polamalu will be entering his 11th season. Should Polamalu stay healthy and productive in 2013, he is almost certain to finish out his current contract that ends after the 2014 season. If he doesn\’t, however, he could become a salary cap casualty next offseason.
Whatever winds up happening on the field in 2013, we can clearly see that the long-awaited safety dance is underway in Pittsburgh.