One thing that strikes me as odd, and yet at the same time as a good thing, is the fact that we really haven’t discussed much, if at all, the early stages of the beginning of Pittsburgh Steelers fifth-year safety Robert Golden’s career as a full-time starter.
And yet, more or less under the radar, the Steelers’ special teams captain has already racked up 15 tackles over the course of the first two games of the season, including nine on Sunday against the Bengals, with five of those of the solo variety, as well as a pass defensed.
I should provide just a quick note right here to point out that all of those tackles were recorded on defense, not on special teams, on which he has seen 28 snaps over the course of the first two games, in spite of the fact that he has also played every snap on defense, the only player to do so already through two games.
Golden only had two tackles against the run against the Bengals, although that is not particularly surprising given that Cincinnati spent most of the game throwing the ball, throwing 54 passes against only 18 carries.
It is a bit interesting, though, that both of his tackles against the run came early in the game, and on back-to-back plays—in fact, on the first two defensive plays of the game for the Steelers, both of them qualifying as run stops.
On the first play, facing a run look with bookmark tight ends on either side of the line, Golden played up in the box and immediately attacked the line of scrimmage off the snap. With Lawrence Timmons occupying the back side tight end on the move, Golden was able to shoot the A Gap and adjust to a jump cut from Jeremy Hill in the hole the make the tackle for no gain.
On the second snap, the Steelers stayed in their 3-4 look while Cincinnati moved both receivers to the left side. Pittsburgh left William Gay on the empty side and shifted Golden over the slot receiver, but Timmons rotated over on the coverage as the strong safety attacked the backfield on the snap.
The front seven bottled up the run, however, and as Hill tried to cut back to the back side of the play, Golden was there to pull him down in pursuit after a five-yard gain on second and 10, which qualifies as a run stop with respect to the down and distance.
Toward the end of the first quarter, with the Bengals facing a 3rd-and-7 from the Steelers’ 12, Pittsburgh moved to their quarter defense with Golden as the only defender in the middle of the field. Cincinnati split Giovani Bernard out in a five-wide look, and the back did get the ball over the middle on a crossing pattern, but Golden was quick to read it and came off his coverage on a post route from the tight end and converged with Gay on Bernard after just a four-yard gain.
Late in the third quarter, Cincinnati was back in the red zone, this time with a 2nd-and-2 from the two. The Bengals presented a 32 look and the Steelers countered with their 3-4. Golden initially joined in vice coverage on the tackle-eligible before reading the far-side tight end coming in uncovered.
The Bengals were able to get him the ball, but Golden responded well to make a defense of the pass, and, failing that, attempt to push him out of bounds. The officials did rule him out of bounds, and Cincinnati failed to challenge the play.
Life as a starter has been so far, so good for Golden, who also started three games as an injury replacement last season before being re-signed this offseason on a three-year deal. Though he has not gotten a lot of the press, he has done well, and, without the splash plays, those two things tend to go hand-in-hand for a safety, though he has quietly made his share of plays.