Pittsburgh Steelers defensive backs Robert Golden and Antwon Blake combined to play all of 56 snaps last year on defense, but both former undrafted free agents will be extremely tough to keep off of the 53 man roster in 2014 just the same.
Golden, who was originally signed by the Steelers in 2012, is still trying to pick up the nuances of the free safety position at the NFL level, but he made great strides last in 2013 as a special teams player.
According to Pro Football Focus, Golden ranked second overall in their culmative special teams ratings with an overall rating of 10.5. His 11 special teams tackles led the team and he was in on 49.5% of all special teams plays (236 snaps).
As for Blake, the Steelers scouting department knew all about him, as he was claimed off of waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars during their final waive of cuts.
Last season with the Steelers, Blake logged the most snaps on special teams with 259 of them and he registered nine tackles and two assists.
As far as their positions go on the punt coverage team, Golden made his mark as the Steelers upback, while Blake was an outside gunner. Blake’s ability to beat the double vice on the outside really makes him an asset.
Despite only playing a total of nine defensive snaps during his first two seasons in the league, Blake was referenced by Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake during the 2014 NFL Draft when asked about the depth of the team at the cornerback position.
“Antwon Blake is one, very fast, quick, aggressive corner that I liked coming out of last year” said Lake. “We were fortunate to grab him in free agency, and he’s turned out to be very productive for us especially on special teams.”
Often times the special teams coach will have a lot of say during the final round of cut downs as to which final two or three players will make a 53 man roster. If either Blake or Golden are on the bubble roughly three months from now, because of their play on the defensive side of the football, you can bet that Danny Smith will be banging the table to keep them.
Good core special teams players are tough to find and the Steelers appear to have two of them in Blake and Golden.