Steelers Robert Golden Looks Right Now To Be The First \”Next Man Up\” At The Safety Position

The Pittsburgh Steelers allowed two of the five safeties that they had on their roster last season to walk off uncontested via free agency this offseason, as Will Allen signed with the Dallas Cowboys and Ryan Mundy signed with the New York Giants. The exodus of those two players left the Steelers with second year undrafted free agent Robert Golden as the only backup safety on the roster with game experience, albeit not a lot.

As expected, the Steelers addressed the safety position in the draft by trading into round four in order to select Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas. Like Golden, Thomas is versatile and Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake talked about that versatility following his draft selection.

“The great thing about this young man is if you were in a pinch and you didn’t want to put the nickel package out there and you wanted him to play man-to-man on the slot, he could do it, “said Lake. “He has done it in big games already against some of the receivers that have been drafted in the first two rounds, and he shut them down. That is the kind of safety I like. That is the kind of safety that the Steelers are looking for. Not only will he cover well, but he will hit you and hit you hard.”

While defensive rookies very seldom see playing time in Pittsburgh, Golden saw action in three games in his first season thanks mostly in part to all of the injuries the Steelers suffered in their secondary. With that being said, the Arizona product still only received just less than 50 defensive snaps of playing time, which is not even the equivalent of a full game.

Unless the Steelers sign a veteran free agent safety such as former Steeler Chris Hope or James Sanders to the roster between now and the start of the season, Golden stands the best chance to backup both Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark in 2013 until Thomas is up to speed with the scheme, which according to Lake could take a full year.

“The reason why I don’t think our scheme will be an issue for him, especially after a year under his belt, is because he’s played so many positions for Syracuse,” said Lake about Thomas. “So he hasn’t been pigeonholed in one position. He’s played multiple positions and what that tells me is the kid has some intelligence because you can’t just switch a guy from safety in a deep path to safety in the box to nickel-back to corner and him not knowing what he’s doing.”

As far Golden, I would look for him to get quite a bit of playing time during the preseason this year, and that goes for Thomas too, for that matter, in order to have both prepared as much as possible should either Polamalu or Clark miss time in 2013 with injuries.

The aforementioned Allen and Mundy combined to play well over 700 snaps last year at safety due to Polamalu missing an extended amount of time with a calf injury, so Golden needs to be prepared for that kind of worse case scenario, if indeed he enters the season as the next man up at the position, which by the looks of things in early May, he is.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we signed Chris Hope back to the ‘burgh?

    Already familiar with our system. He should adjust fairly quickly. Could be a long term replacement for Clark. Keep Golden as a back up. Safety problem solved.

  • Informed reader

    Chris Hope is only one year younger than Ryan Clark. No way he can be a long term replacement. I would rather stay with a young guy that has the potential to be there in the future.

  • I’ll never forget that touchdown by Witten, while Golden stood there with his knees locked and his feet glued to the turf.

  • dgh57

    What will help the Safety play this year is a healthy Troy Polamalu for at least most of the year!! I know that’s asking a lot but that’s as good a place as any to start! We don’t play in Denver this year either which helps Ryan Clarke. Just hope we don’t play them in the playoffs, at least not in Denver!!

  • Brendon Glad

    I thought Golden had a very nice pre-season last year, so I hope he keeps improving. I liked that he got his hands on the ball with some frequency. It would be nice if next years Steelers get their hands on the ball significantly more than last year. Yardage numbers aside…that Steelers defense was definitely not as influential towards victories as units of the recent past. And a lot of it had to do with a need for better quality depth at the “defensive playmaker” positions. Hopefully, the decisions they have made there were the right ones.

  • Intropy

    There’s an even more talented former Steelers safety even more familiar with the scheme they currently run. Is there a rule against simultaneously being a backup safety and defensive backs coach?

  • zyzak


  • Intropy

    Carnell Lake

  • steeltown

    I like the potential in Golden and I love the Shark Thomas pick, but I wish we would’ve re-signed Will Allen for another year, he really played well last season. I wouldn’t mind carrying 5 true Safeties, again

    If Polamalu would stay healthy for most of the season, wouldn’t be as much of an issue

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    My bad. Didn’t realize he’d gotten that old so quickly.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Agree on Polamalu. Disagree on Allen. I don’t think he played that well last year (or any year). He’s very slow. Decent tackler. Bad change of direction. Not a ball hawk.

    I’d rather keep a younger cheaper player with more upside. Not that I love Golden. In fact I think we draft another mid/early round safety next year (with a little more speed and ball hawking skills). For as much as this was supposedly a “deep” safety class I didn’t see a lot of pro bowl caliber prospects. Just good solid prospects. We can find another one of those next year IMO.

  • who thumbs down without a comment? Pussy!

  • JDR

    would have been nice to have gotten Antoine Winfield, as long as Ben is the QB we are a SB contender, upgrade whenever you can, even if the player is not a long term stay…. who is now in this roger baddell nfl


  • steeltown

    I agree with that.. I think they will too.. it seems like Gay ‘could’ be that emergency Safety if needed, plus they’ll carry another one on the PS