Robert "Little Dawk" Golden now knows what to expect

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Golden has the nickname and he showed the potential. Now that he knows what he's doing in the pro game, he could become a dangerous sub-package weapon for the Steelers in 2013.

As far as local athletes go, it doesn't get much bigger than Brian Dawkins in Philadelphis during the 2000s.

The heart and soul of several outstanding Eagles teams, the brash and powerful strong safety was their leader and their mouthpiece.

Apparently, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin refers to second-year safety Robert Golden as "Little Dawk." There certainly are worse nicknames to be called, but there aren't many titles requiring more from those who are given it.

Dawkins, a nine-time Pro Bowl player with the Eagles and Broncos, was a second round draft pick in 1996. Golden was undrafted, and is entering his second year, now a back-up free safety. He spoke with the Fresno Bee recently, highlighting not just the nickname, but the expectations for the Steelers in 2013.

"(Training camp has) been real physical," Golden told the newspaper. "That's one of the things we wanted to bring back to Pittsburgh defense … physicality. What happened last year going 8-8 was unacceptable. Whatever we've got to do to get back to the traditional Pittsburgh Steelers and get in the playoffs and win the Vince Lombardi trophy."

Golden flashed some playmaking ability in the Steelers' 18-13 loss to the Giants in the preseason opener, nearly picking off a David Carr pass. There was nothing but green in front of him, too. Maybe that's why he dropped it.

That playmaking ability is something the Steelers' safeties need desperately after having been largely without them these last two seasons. Golden, who played all four defensive secondary positions at the University of Arizona, provides a unique blend of athleticism and size. If he can harness those qualities, the Steelers could have a potent weapon for sub-package situations.

Maybe even more than that.

With Ryan Clark not having a contract beyond this season, it's not unfair to suggest Golden is being groomed to take on a starting role next season. Clark's veteran savvy and physicality will be difficult to replace when he does move on from the game, but Clark noted the value of being able to learn under both Clark and Troy Polamalu.

"Having Troy and having Ryan Clark also as a leader to look up to," he told the paper. "I couldn't have asked for a better position to be in than to learn from those guys."

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