Over the course of the past two weeks, the Pittsburgh Steelers have experimented more with their dime, or quarters, defensive package, which includes six defensive backs, among them a third safety. Robert Golden served as the third safety on Sunday against the Broncos, typically on obvious passing situations such as third and long, but he also saw some time in other situations for about 20 or so snaps.
His first snap, in fact, came in the nickel, replacing Will Allen as the second safety. Early in the first quarter, on a first-and-10 running play, Golden played up in the box, filling the C gap on the defensive right side and helping to funnel the back inside, where he was stopped after a short gain.
Later on toward the end of the same drive, the defense was able to force a third-and-eight situation, and the Steelers checked into the quarters package, actually taking Lawrence Timmons off the field for the first time all season.
Unfortunately, the Broncos were able to convert in part because of a miscommunication between Golden and Allen, as the former ended up backing into the latter, which helped allow the wide receiver to find an open window with two defenders occupying the same zone.
The Broncos opened up the second quarter in another third and long, this requiring six yards, which meant Golden came back into the game. Though he lined up in the box shaded inside of the left tackle, he was in disguised coverage on Emmanuel Sanders in the slot, but the receiver ran a corner route for the completion when Golden was clearly expecting him to stay inside.
At the end of the drive, the Broncos had second and goal at the one-yard line as the Steelers checked into their goal line package. As has been the case, Golden was the second safety in this revised package, and on this play, he did a nice job of coming off his block as he saw the run strung outside, and made the tackle for a six-yard loss.
In the third quarter, Denver was forced into a third-and-10 situation. Golden lined up in the box, but broke away to pick up the tight end breaking over the middle. His ability to control the tight end and take away the middle option forced the ball down the field for an incomplete pass.
In yet another third and long in the fourth quarter, Golden took the defensive left third of field in a Cover 3 and nearly had his second interception in as many weeks as he jumped a corner route. Looking at the All-22 tape, it should have been a pick six, but at least if got the defense off the field.
The offseason should be an interesting one for the Steelers as they look to solve the safety position. They came into the year thinking that Shamarko Thomas would be the future, but instead turned to the past with Allen starting, but Golden has forced them to think about if he might be their answer for the present.