The captain never abandons the ship. That’s the rule.
But in this case, Robert Golden might not have a choice.
Despite being named the Pittsburgh Steelers’ special teams captain for the third season in a row, Danny Smith confirmed Golden will have a reduced role on that unit this season. Golden is no longer just the core special teamer – he’s now the Steelers’ starting strong safety.
“It does affect his division of labor,” Smith told Bob Labriola on SNR’s Coordinator’s Corner. “I handle that with him. There’s a lot of thought process in that. He doesn’t want to be off anything. He wants to do everything. That’s great and that’s his mindset and that’s why he’s the captain of the special teams unit. That’s why he got voted captain of the special teams unit, which is a fabulous honor and he deserves it quite well.”
Golden played 310 special teams snaps in 2015, nearly 70% of the total. Both figures were career highs. He played his full compliment of special teams snaps during the three game stretch he filled in for Will Allen on defense, who missed time with an ankle injury.
When Chris Adamski asked Golden about it early in the week, Mike Mitchell chimed in with a fairly specific answer.
Golden was diplomatic when I asked what ST's he'd still be playing…but Mike Mitchell leaned in and said "just one" https://t.co/6yez6BtBdC
— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) September 5, 2016
That “one” was never stated but it’s reasonable to assume he’ll remain as the upback on punts. They serve as the quarterback of the unit, setting up the blocking scheme and letting the punter know when the ball can/will be hiked. Golden has continued that role throughout the preseason.
That means Golden will be replaced on all other units, something Smith was quick to point out in his interview.
“Those other guys gotta do something too. They don’t belong over there sitting by me in this league. I will, again, situationally help [Golden] in the course of a game in different scenarios and different situations. He and I have discussed that. He and I know that plan, and he and I will put that plan into place.”
Sean Davis is a candidate to replace him in some fashion, at the least, probably as the blocker behind the front line five on kick returns. We laid out a special teams map a week ago, before final cutdowns, and had Golden on just two units. You can revisit it here.