When it comes to fourth-year Pittsburgh Steelers safety Robert Golden you may question his ability on becoming a full-time starter. Despite being an undrafted player, he recently has turned the corner and provided excellent play while filling in for veteran safety Will Allen, who missed time due to an ankle injury.
In 2015, Golden showed fans a glimpse of what he has to offer. He is a tremendous special teams player, and when along side Mike Mitchell has provided solid play. This year, he racked up 30 tackles, and an interception against the Cincinnati Bengals in week 14. He returned the interception 27-yards and set up Pittsburgh with excellent field position to score.
While many people already know how incredible he is at special teams there are some plays that will show you he can succeed as a strong safety. In the divisional game against the Denver Broncos his most significant play came on third down. He was covering Emmanuel Sanders running a drag route over the middle who gained some separation on him at first. After he got beat for a short second, he accelerated to the football, and was in prime position to make a tackle and force the punt.
Golden already has the leadership experience and puts in the time to succeed at a high level. He watches game film, and currently is captain of the Steelers special teams unit. He has the speed and acceleration to track the football, which is something you look at in an NFL caliber safety.
He only has a few starts under his belt, but that is certainly better than former fourth-round draft pick Shamarko Thomas who was supposed to start along side Mitchell at the beginning of the season. Thomas, who had some horrific performances in the preseason, left the organization to start veteran safety Will Allen over him.
The Steelers are very tricky when it comes to naming starters. I think Golden has played well enough for the organization to have trust in him going forward. His brief stint in the starting lineup should definitely give him more opportunities to prove himself going forward. If the team decides to bring him back next season, I wouldn't be surprised to see him start a few games next year even if they sign a safety in the draft or bring back Will Allen.
Everyone certainly knows that Pittsburgh's safety position is in disarray. They have to figure out who to re-sign before next season begins. Shamarko Thomas is a good special teams player but did not live up to the expectations that were placed on him. Will Allen is a 33-year old veteran who had one of the best seasons in his career. I expect Pittsburgh to re-sign him considering he played at high level, knows the system, and could potentially teach a rookie safety some important factors in order for him to succeed. Last but not least, Robert Golden had a terrific season making highlight reel plays despite only starting a few games and seeing limited snaps with the starting defense. I expect Pittsburgh to re-sign Golden due to his outstanding season and how he is a viable leader and core special teams player.
While the safety position has been a concern these last few years, I have seen enough plays by Golden to suggest that he could provide the missing piece to Pittsburgh's horrific secondary. We will have to see what is in store for him going into the 2016 season. I think he will get into the lineup more often because of his improvement and how he responded after being put into the lineup a few times this season. I believe he is going to continue to provide solid safety play going forward. Golden is a decisive player who has great acceleration to get to the football, he is a player that puts in the work, and has just been given a true opportunity this year. He should make the best out of it and I am excited to see how he preforms going forward.