The Pittsburgh Steelers have, by and large, been on an upward swing over the course of the past two and a half seasons after they missed the playoffs for two straight seasons, and failed to win a postseason game in four straight years.
Last season saw them gain that elusive playoff victory, though they came up short with about three minutes left in the Divisional round a week later. Their offense took off, and their defense improved, showing playmaking ability and opportunism.
But there are still a lot of unanswered questions facing the team as we crack into free agency territory. As an exercise, we like to take a stab at some of those questions, presenting arguments for the pros and cons of each side of the coin. This is the pessimist’s take on the following question.
Question: Can the Steelers afford to settle on Robert Golden as one of their starting safeties in 2016?
Robert Golden may have started three games for the Steelers last season, and he may have handled his business reasonably well in that frame, but he won’t be mistaken for an All-Pro any time soon. The former undrafted free agent received his first extensive playing time last year in his fourth season, and was retained on a modest three-year contract that certainly doesn’t scream ‘starting job’.
But considering what the free agent market looks like at safety at the moment—both in terms of the available talent left over after the first week of free agency, as well as, so to speak, the price of admission, looking at what other players managed to land—it’s becoming increasingly unlikely that the Steelers will find another starting option in outside free agency.
But is that the end of the discussion? No, for two reasons. One outside factor that has to be considered is that if the Steelers are not content with their safety situation by the time training camp begins to kick into gear, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they picked up the phone and gave their old friend Will Allen, a call—he of 34 years of age and 13 starts in 2015.
That might not be what you want to read, but it might be what actually ends up happening. After all, he has been with the team for six years already, and would be as plug-and-play as they come as far as understanding the defense goes.
The other route is, of course, the draft, where the Steelers could be very likely to draft as safety as early as the first round, but it would verge on shocking if they did not come out with one through the first two days of the draft, barring a surprising free agent move.
Perhaps a rookie will have trouble starting immediately—yet it has been done in recent years—but he could move into the starting lineup as the season progresses, which is also something that we have seen from the Steelers as recently as last season. Golden may be the only option on the roster right now, but that will change by time August rolls around.