Film Room: Robert Golden Next Man Up?

I don’t think I was the only person who was surprised when they saw Robert Golden come onto the field in Detroit two Sundays ago after Pittsburgh Steelers starting free safety Mike Mitchell hobbled off with what was revealed yesterday as an Achilles injury.

Earlier in the year, when a safety had missed some snaps due to injury, the Steelers entrusted that responsibility to J.J. Wilcox, whom they traded for after the initial 53-man roster had been solidified. He even started a game in place of Mitchell.

So why was he called into action over Wilcox for that game (Wilcox later played one snap too)? Will he continue to be the next safety off the bench? I can’t answer those questions, but I can at least look at some of the plays he was involved in.

Early on in his playing time, the Steelers lined him up in the box, which was not uncommon for them when they were using him as their dime safety. But this ended up being a passing play, forcing him to drop into coverage, and he had to clean up the tackle attempt of Sean Davis, which drew a penalty, and eventually a fine.

Later on in the game, with five minutes to play in the third quarter, the Lions were set up with second and goal from the one-yard line. Matthew Stafford dropped back to pass, but he struggled to find anybody open with Golden picking up the receiver taking a sharp cut to the outside as pressure forced the quarterback to roll out to his right.

Later in the game, T.J. Watt was able to leap and bat a ball down playing middle zone coverage, but Artie Burns had solid coverage underneath on the intended target. Golden also came up and was in position to lay a big hit should the ball have reached its destination.

A few plays later, Stafford connected with his tight end on a crossing route for what ended up being a 14-yard connection on third and three. Golden initially seemed to take a dangerous angle that exposed the sideline, but he was able to get to the edge and make the tackle.

It’s probably not too surprising that there wasn’t a whole lot to dissect from less than a half’s worth of snaps from the free safety position, which is often not directly involved in the action unless something bad happens.

I’m still just wondering why the team flipped from Wilcox to Golden. Was it a preferable matchup?

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Lil Smitty

    Could it be that they are more confident in Golden’s skill set against a passing team as opposed to a run heavy team. Wilcox seems to be a better Strong Safety to hang free.

  • Steve

    Golden is doing a good job in the plays you show above. That may be the reason he is the next man up.

  • steelburg

    He looks more like that 2014 Golden in these gifs. But we still 100 percent need a safety in this coming draft. I would be ok with moving on from Mitchell next year and going with Dangerfield, Golden, Wilcox, and a rookie.

  • Delboka

    What postion should the Steelers draft?

    I know its cery early, but I’ve been thinking S,TE,ILB

  • Z Vranic RMT

    I will keep banging the table to move Brian Allen to safety. 6’3 2015lbs with CB/WR experience. A training camp already in the books. Should of done the switch immediately and we wouldn’t be worried now. Way better upside than Golden or Wilcox. Wouldn’t have to worry about a safety early or at all in this draft. Maybe the team see’s safety as his position next year and Sutton as the CB oppisite Burns and Hilton. Imagine that !

  • John Pennington

    Still believe the steelers can do alot better at safety position.Draft a solid safety and bring some in after the draft to see if they can become backups.

  • Bruce

    One of Allen’s weaknesses is he admits he is just starting to learn how to tackle, not a good thing for a safety

  • Michael Mosgrove

    I’d take Wilcox over golden. I don’t believe Mitchell finishes his last year in 2018. Too vulnerable. Draft a safety in second round, have him compete with Wilcox and danger zone for starting position. One is backup. Loser is gone.

  • Zarbor

    I agree but the question is he smart enough and tough enough to play it. Brian Allen was a WR that made the switch to corner so to switch him to safety, that may be tough. Seems like more of a coverage guy. I do like his measurables in covering TEs but I’m not so sure how he would fair against making big hits and tackling guys like Gronk, Kelsey, Witten, etc.

    BTW, I’ve lost all confidence in Golden. Please put Wilcox back in the game no matter how good Golden look in these gifs. I was a fan until several years ago, it looks like he shouldn’t be on the field.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    Don’t be in lust with his measurements. Look at hilton.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    Qb safety tight end.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    Davis, danger, rookie, Wilcox. Get rid of golden and mitchell.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    Problem is we have a lot of strong safety people. Mitchell, Wilcox, golden, Dangerfield. All 4 are similar. Everyone on this site knows my favorite but at the same time. He hasn’t set himself apart like he needs to.

  • Cavallonator

    Cool that he filled in, but definitely need something a bit more potent. Brady sees him out there he will be under fire and just can’t hold his own.

    Unless they could find some really good talent in the draft @ QB they REALLY need a better safety crew.

  • #beatthepats

    Anazingly, Golden made the top 5 in player grades from pff for that second half . They only gave up 3 pionts with him back there so kudos!

  • Uncle Rico.

    I’ve been wondering that myself. When they first got Wilcox, they threw him right in at both safety spots. And after a bad preseason it looked like Golden was banished from defense altogether, and was just a ST’er. And maybe even the reason they went out and grabbed Wilcox to begin with. But the last couple of games it looks like Golden backs up Mitchell and Wilcox backs up Davis.

    I had some hopes for Wilcox, but he seems to be trending the wrong way judging by playtime/opportunities. In nickel, VW stays on the field. In dime, he comes off and Gay comes in and lines up often in that Buck spot. When they want to go nickel, I wouldn’t mind if they brought Wilcox in for VW instead for a heavy dime look, and just forgo nickel altogether. I’d think the upgrade in coverage would more than offset any loss in run support. Pass to run ratio in nickel is already about 2:1 anyways. And their run D in nickel has been outstanding. Makes sense to tweak things in the direction of better coverage.

  • Intense Camel

    Oh God no, I’ll take Wilcox.

  • falconsaftey43

    Williams hasn’t be a problem in coverage though, so not really a compelling reason to try to replace him with Wilcox.

  • Steve Johnson

    QB, TE and Safety

  • Steve Johnson

    He tackles just as good as Artie Burns, Sean Davis or Mike Mitchell. OJT. He needs to be on the field, give the kid some reps.

  • Steve Johnson

    Is he smart enough and physical enough? Take a look at the film from Utah. Yes, he’s raw and has only played two years, but the kid is tough. Now, he very well probably needs to work on his craft, but he doesn’t lack the physical part if the game.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    I guess it is surprising given that we saw Wilcox earlier but not so surprising given Goldens past. He has typically be a solid fill in safety for us and most fans don’t remember that because of the recency bias of the Pats game where he had a really ugly play. Of course what they fail to account for is that he was coming back from injury and hadn’t played much leading up to that point and our entire defense was terrible.

    So this is just par for the course for anyone actually given Golden a fair shake and not just thinking about 1 or 2 recent plays. He is a good safety who is typically assignment sound and a good tackler. All that being said, I do think it is time to try and draft a next good/great safety and keep Golden right where he is as a nice vet backup.

  • steelburg

    Golden has definitely underwhelmed since that 2014 season. So I wouldn’t be surprised if they moved on from him. But the FO have been good about letting guys play out there contracts lately and Golden has 1 more year left.

  • Uncle Rico.

    He kinda has. He’s too slow to play man, so that limits them. He’s slow to react and he bites on playaction. Everyone in coverage had a play or two versus Detroit they’d like to forget. And VW had a pair, including the 44 yarder to Ebron. But it goes beyond that. All the way back to the opener, where it was eye-opening for me just how much he’s giving up in speed. It’s no wonder we haven’t seen much man since then. Until Detroit, and it bit them again in man coverage. I’m not saying he’s the reason they’re not playing more man. But it would allow them to play more if they replaced him with Wilcox when they would typically go nickel. He can drop to a hook/curl zone fine. But he’s a liability in man.

  • Steeler4l1f3

    Add QB and that’s the list.

  • Taylor Williams

    I’ll stick with Vince for another year at ILB. But we need a QB, TE and Safety, then grab a LG and a WR.

  • Zarbor

    Yeah, I looked at some of his film from Utah but I had looked at Shamarko’s film in college as well when he played and we all know how that turned out. College isn’t the pros and its hard to make at your college position much less a new one….just saying. Until he actually plays the position, its a long shot in the dark.

  • Aj Gentile

    It’s strange, he seems to do better when he doesn’t start a game.

  • Steve Johnson

    I agree, but I think this kid is better. S. Thomas was a bust from the neck up (according to the reports and Coaches). This kid is pretty smart, to make the move from WR – S – CB, all within a two year span. The problem with Tomlin, he seems afraid to play any of those guys (Conner, Watson, B. Allen). Whatever happened to not living in your fears? lol

  • Zarbor

    You can’t say someone is better that never played the position. Just saying.