The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season ended a few weeks earlier that they had planned it to, but now that their 2015 campaign has drawn to a conclusion, it’s time to wrap things up and take stock of where they are and how they got there. Part of that process involves holding player exit meetings at the conclusion of each season.
Of course, we’re not privy to the specifics that go on in each of these meetings between head coach and player, and whomever else might be involved in any particular discussion, but if we were conducting them, it might go something like this.
Player: Robert Golden
Experience: 4 Years
The Steelers originally added safety Robert Golden as an undrafted free agent following the 2012 NFL Draft as primarily a college cornerback who was transitioning to the position, which played a role in his going unselected at that time.
Over the course of his career, his role has evolved, culminating into his opportunity to play a significant role on defense last season, a year under which he played under a one-year restricted free agent tender in his fourth professional season.
It was his second season during which he served as the team’s special teams captain, however, which is an area of the game in which he has already prided himself, and is the reason that he made the team as an undrafted free agent in the first place all those years back. His work in that aspect of the game helped provide the opportunity that now lays before him.
Under new defensive coordinator Keith Butler, the Steelers opened the season by breaking out some of their quarters defense, which employs three safeties on the field in a secondary-heavy sub-package. The defense was plagued by communications issues, however, and Golden’s defensive opportunity was shelved for a while.
When starting safety Will Allen went down with an ankle injury, however, the door flew wide open, and he experienced about a quarter of a season’s worth of time as a starting safety for the Steelers, a role in which he performed well enough to draw many to believe he deserved to keep the job.
When Allen returned to the lineup, Butler began to mix in more quarters looks again, generally in obvious passing situations, which put Golden back on the field, typically up in the box in coverage in the slot, favoring his athleticism, tackling, and intelligence.
In all, he managed 40 tackles to go along with four passes defensed and his first career interception. It is worth keeping in mind that he entered the season as the fourth safety on the depth chart, as Shamarko Thomas was to enter the starting lineup.
But Thomas blew his chance and slid down the list after showing the mental gaffes that caused the coaching staff to opt for Golden to leapfrog him. Now re-signed to a modest three-year contract, he may well have the opportunity to at least compete for the starting safety job in training camp this year.