Pittsburgh Steelers: Robert Golden

Grading the Pittsburgh Steelers

October, 6, 2014
Oct 6
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Here are the marks from the Pittsburgh Steelers' 17-9 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
AP Photo/John RaouxQB Ben Roethlisberger has led the Steelers to a 3-2 overall record this season.
Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger admittedly didn't play one of his better games despite completing 72 percent of his throws and registering a passer rating of 103.1. His four sacks were mostly a result of Roethlisberger holding onto the ball too long. He didn't try to push the ball downfield enough while also losing a fumble deep in Jaguars' territory. Grade: C+

Running backs: Le'Veon Bell averaged 5.5 yards per carry in rushing for 82 yards and the second-year back had 118 yards from scrimmage. No back this side of Dallas' DeMarco Murray has been better than Bell this season. LeGarrette Blount had three carries for 18 yards on the Steelers' only touchdown drive of the game. Grade: B-

Wide receivers: Antonio Brown made a heck of a catch on a 30-yard grab in the third quarter when the Steelers badly needed someone to make a play. Markus Wheaton caught just one pass for 17 yards and had a bad drop on the Steelers' first possession of the game. Justin Brown played his best game, catching all three passes thrown his way and holding onto the ball after taking a nasty hit on one of them. Grade: C+

Tight ends: Heath Miller jumped-started the offense with a 27-yard catch on the Steelers' only touchdown drive and Michael Palmer -- go figure -- scored the only offensive touchdown of the game. The tight ends helped the Steelers rush for 111 yards and average 4.0 yards per carry. Grade: C+

Offensive line: A very nice response from this group after it did not play particularly well in a 27-24 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Roethlisberger had tons of time to throw and the line opened enough running lanes for Bell and Blount. Center Maurkice Pouncey played really well and helped control Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, who registered 12 tackles and a sack but made a lot of stops down the field. Grade: B

Defensive line: The Steelers played a lot of nickel but still held up well against the run, allowing just 56 yards on the ground and 3.7 yards per carry. The Steelers have been very good against the run for three consecutive games allowing 161 rushing yards and 3.6 yards per carry during that span. Grade: B

Linebackers: Lawrence Timmons tied for a team-high seven tackles and really helped snuff out the Jaguars' running game. Outside linebacker Jason Worilds came alive with a sack and a game-high three quarterback pressures. The Steelers did not get a whole lot from the rest of their linebackers though James Harrison's tackle for loss on first down came the play before Brice McCain intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown: Grade: B-

Cornerbacks: McCain, Cortez Allen and William Gay played a terrific game collectively, combining for all six of the Steelers' pass break ups and both of their interceptions. McCain's 22-yard interception return for a touchdown was the play of the game but Allen may have played the best of anyone on the Steelers' defense. The fourth-year veteran registered seven tackles, broke up three passes and recorded his second interception of the season. Grade: A-

Safeties: Troy Polamalu and Mike Mitchell combined for nine tackles and were solid in run support. Five games into the season, however, the two have one pass broken up and no interceptions between them. Mitchell seems to get better as he gets more comfortable in a new scheme and with new teammates: Grade: B-

Special teams: Three of the Steelers' seven penalties came on these units, including two by special teams captain Robert Golden. Dri Archer finally got to return a couple of kickoffs but he averaged a paltry 18.0 yards on two returns. Brad Wing netted 38.6 yards on five punts and boomed a 53-yarder. The kick coverage teams were solid. Grade: C

Coaching: The Steelers were much more disciplined after getting penalized 13 times for 125 yards the previous week. They had just one penalty on defense and seven overall for 50 yards. The offensive game plan was puzzling. The Steelers seemed content to throw underneath against a pass defense that had been strafed in the season's first four weeks. Bell is one of the best running backs in the NFL and he didn't get a touch the six plays the Steelers ran inside Jacksonville's 10-yard line. Grade: C+

W2W4: Pittsburgh Steelers

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
The Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) and Philadelphia Eagles (0-2) play Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
  • Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the rest of the offensive starters will play at least a half, and look for the Steelers to run the no-huddle attack extensively, matching the fast pace their defense will see from the Eagles. Roethlisberger wants to get work with the no-huddle offense on the road, where he will have to rely on hand signals more because of crowd noise. It will also be interesting to see how much the Steelers run out of their no-huddle offense. They wanted to establish the run with their starters in their first preseason game. Check. They wanted to come out throwing in the no-huddle in their second preseason game. Check. Now it’s time to see the Steelers run the ball extensively out of the no-huddle, as that will be a significant component of their offense this season.
  • An ankle injury to Shamarko Thomas last season provided an opportunity that veteran Will Allen exploited. Allen established himself as the Steelers’ No. 3 safety, relegating Thomas to special-teams duty the rest of the season. Now Allen is nursing a hamstring injury that kept him out of the Steelers’ second preseason game, and the 11th-year veteran might not play against the Eagles. Thomas looks like a different player in his second season, and he drew pretty high praise from coach Mike Tomlin on Tuesday. If Thomas wins the job as the Steelers’ No. 3 safety, does that make Allen expendable? It could if the Steelers only keep four safeties and third-year man Robert Golden continues to play well.
  • Roethlisberger challenged wide receiver Martavis Bryant earlier this week to practice with more of a purpose, to practice like Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown. If Roethlisberger isn’t handling the rookie fourth-round pick with kid gloves, that is because the Steelers think Bryant can be an asset in the passing game -- and sooner rather than later. The 6-foot-4, 211-pound Bryant has a unique blend of size and speed, and he is the kind of wideout whom the Steelers have rarely had with Roethlisberger at quarterback. I’d love to see Bryant get some work with the first-team offense. Same with Justin Brown, who has just three catches for 15 yards in two preseason games and has received most of his playing time with the backup quarterbacks.
This is the 13th in a series that takes a post-training camp look at every Pittsburgh Steelers position. The final look is at safety.

Players on the roster: Troy Polamalu, Mike Mitchell, Shamarko Thomas, Will Allen, Robert Golden, Jordan Dangerfield and Ross Ventrone.

Projected starters: Polamalu and Mitchell. Polamalu remains the face of the defense, and the 12th-year veteran won’t have to play inside linebacker in the dime package this season. That bodes well for the eight-time Pro Bowler staying healthy after playing every snap last season. This does not: Polamalu has not played every game in consecutive seasons since 2004-05. Mitchell replaces Ryan Clark at free safety, and the Steelers signed the sixth-year veteran to provide speed and another playmaker on the back end of the defense. Mitchell had four interceptions last season with Carolina -- one less than the Steelers' safeties combined for in 2013.

Projected number on 53-man roster: Five. Golden makes the team based on his special teams play in the past and the strides the third-year man has made at safety. If the Steelers only keep four safeties, they will have a tough decision to make between Golden and Allen.

Rookie watch: The Steelers don't have any rookies but first-year man Jordan Dangerfield opened eyes in training camp and is a strong candidate for the practice squad, which has been increased from eight to 10 players for all teams. The 5-11, 200-pounder is a fearless hitter and he seems to be around the ball a lot in practice.

What we learned in camp: The Steelers tried to preserve Polamalu as much as possible, holding him out of live tackling drills as well as their first preseason game. Polamalu said he feels a little better from a physical standpoint going into this season, which certainly is a positive. Mitchell hasn’t had the easiest of transitions as he missed the first week of camp because of a groin injury and then stood out for two plays in preseason games for the wrong reasons. Mitchell took a bad angle on New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings’ 73-yard touchdown run in the preseason opener. Last Saturday against the Buffalo Bills he was penalized for taunting after a tackle he didn’t even make. Thomas looks like he is ready to make the kind of jump the Steelers expect between a player’s first and second seasons. The Polamalu protégé -- and eventual successor -- should be the No. 3 safety this season.

He said it: “We’ve made a lot of plays this camp, which is nice. But I don’t get infatuated, honestly with what happens in camp, I really don’t. There’s a lot of guys you see in preseasons that stand out in camp, more than you see stand out in the regular season, so I don’t get too infatuated with guys that are really making plays.” -- Polamalu.

Position preview: Safety

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
The final one in a series that looks at every position on offense and defense with training camp approaching, we take a look at the Steelers' safeties.

Returning starter: Troy Polamalu. The eight-time Pro Bowler played every game last season and, as usual, did a little bit of everything for the Steelers. Polamalu recorded 69 tackles, forced a career-high five fumbles and tied for the team lead with two interceptions. The durability that Polamalu exhibited while playing a team-high 1,041 snaps in 2013 was especially impressive considering he often played inside linebacker on passing downs.

New face: Mike Mitchell. The Steelers moved quickly to get younger and faster on the back end of their defense, signing Mitchell to a five-year, $25 million contract on the first day of free agency. Mitchell, who turned 27 last month, enjoyed a breakout season with the Carolina Panthers after four mostly nondescript ones in Oakland. Mitchell intercepted four passes and notched 3.5 sacks while making 66 tackles for the Panthers in 2013. He should be a significant upgrade over Ryan Clark at free safety.

On the bubble: Robert Golden and Ross Ventrone. The Steelers appear to be set as far as their top four safeties with veteran Will Allen and second-year man Shamarko Thomas providing depth behind Polamalu and Mitchell. Golden and Ventrone are among those battling for a roster spot based on their special-teams play and Golden has the clear advantage here.

By the numbers: The previous two seasons that Polamalu played every game (2008 and 2011) he suited up for five and seven games, respectively, the following seasons. Polamalu, 33, has not played every game in back-to-back seasons since 2004-05.

Did you know: Ventrone only played one year of high school football at Chartiers Valley, which is in the Pittsburgh suburb of Bridgeville. He played in eight games for the New England Patriots in 2011 and his brother, Ray, is a safety for the San Francisco 49ers.

Quotable: “I don’t think it’s been hard at all. Coach (Dick) LeBeau and coach (Carnell) Lake are both great teachers and I don’t want to say it’s been easy but they’ve made it easier on me to pick up the playbook. It’s not rocket science.” – Mitchell on learning the Steelers’ defense.

Outlook: Age and the grind of 11 NFL seasons has caught up with Polamalu a little bit, but he is still a top-tier safety as well as one of the few proven playmakers that the Steelers have on defense. Mitchell should make Polamalu better and the addition of inside linebacker Ryan Shazier should free up Polamalu to play all over the field. Thomas is expected to make a big jump in his second season and he could overtake Allen as the No. 3 safety.
PITTSBURGH -- This is the last in a series that takes a post-free agency, post-draft look at all of the positions with the exception of quarterback.

Our ninth look is at the position where the Steelers made their most significant free-agent acquisition.


Who is new: Mike Mitchell. The Steelers signed the fifth-year veteran to a five-year, $25 million contract, moving quickly after the start of free agency to add speed and youth to the back end of their defense.

Who is gone: Ryan Clark. The Steelers went in another direction at free safety after eight seasons of Clark starting there. He signed a one-year contract with the Redskins, the team Clark had been with before joining the Steelers in 2006.

Returning starter: Troy Polamalu. The eight-time Pro Bowler, who agreed to a new three-year contact in March, remains the face of the Steelers’ defense. Polamalu played every game last season, and he held up remarkably well despite playing significant snaps at inside linebacker on passing downs. The addition of Ryan Shazier will allow Polamalu to play exclusively at safety though he will continue to line up all over the field in Dick LeBeau’s defense.

Most significant addition: Mitchell. Everything came together for Mitchell last season in Carolina where he intercepted four passes and registered 3 ˝ sacks while recording 66 tackles. The 6-foot, 210-pounder gives the Steelers a speedy playmaker, something they desperately needed in the secondary, and he only turns 27 next month.

Most significant loss: Clark. A heady player and fearless hitter, Clark made 102 tackles last season, second most on the Steelers, and tied for the team lead with two interceptions. As well as Clark played in Pittsburgh, the Steelers needed more speed at free safety.

On outside looking in: Robert Golden. The second-year man didn’t play a defensive snap after the fourth game of 2013, and he will again have to make the 53-man roster based on his work on special teams. The Steelers appear set at safety with Polamalu, Mitchell, Shamarko Thomas and Will Allen. But a couple of players always seem to make the team as special-teamers, something Golden did last year.

Hidden number: Polamalu and Clark started 86 regular-season games together at safety, and that experience as well as their close friendship allowed them to play well off one another.

Outlook: The Steelers shored up safety with the signing of Mitchell and the re-signing of Allen, who reinvigorated his career after returning to Pittsburgh last October following an abbreviated stint in Dallas. Thomas is expected to make a big jump in his second season after playing significant games as a rookie before sustaining a high-ankle injury. Polamalu can be vulnerable in coverage because of his propensity to gamble, but he is still playing at a high level. The big key with Polamalu is how quickly he develops the kind of chemistry with Mitchell that will allow him to freelance on defense.
Here is the latest Pittsburgh Steeler's mail call. If you have a question please it send to @ScottBrown_ESPN with #steelersmail.

And away we go ...