How Golden Fits the Steelers’ Defensive Room

Free agent Markus Golden went from being a visitor at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ facility to joining the AFC North franchise, with ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter reporting a one-year agreement for both parties on Wednesday.

How Markus Golden Fits the Steelers’ Defense

For starters, Golden brings a wealth of experience to the defensive room for the Steelers as a nine-year veteran. After the experience part, he adds a common element in Steel City: attacking the quarterback.

While he’s never played in Pro Bowls, Golden has a past history of being an impactful pass rusher when called upon, making him perfect for a defense known for getting after the passer dating back to the days of the “Steel Curtain.”

The 6’3″, 260-pound EDGE and outside linebacker has three seasons of hitting double-digit sacks: 2016 with the Arizona Cardinals (12.5), 2019 with the New York Giants (10 sacks), and, most recently, 2021 during a second stint with the Cards (11).

However, in 17 games with 14 starts during 2022, Golden delivered just 2.5 sacks, the second-lowest output in a full regular season for him, according to Pro Football Reference. He also has 11 career forced fumbles and snatched one interception, making him a capable playmaking defender when needed.

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Golden was on a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the Cardinals last season. Arizona was 31st overall in defense and produced just 36 sacks. But now, Golden goes from playing alongside leading sack artist and newly retired J.J. Watt to lining up with his brother, T.J. Watt.

How Golden’s Presence Impacts the EDGE Room

The decision to add Golden this late addresses a long-needed area for the 2023 Steelers, ensuring depth in a room with the Pro Bowler Watt and fast-riser Alex Highsmith.

The league’s 10th-best defense witnessed the third-year pro Highsmith breakout to the tune of 14.5 sacks, his first double-digit sack season. Watt, meanwhile, was limited to five sacks as he battled a torn pectoral.

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The Steelers didn’t get much sack help outside of Highsmith, Watt, and veteran Cameron Heyward, who delivered 10 sacks. Robert Spillane and Malik Reed provided a combined two sacks.

Now, Golden’s addition can help reignite that room as a veteran depth presence. He’s the third newcomer to that unit, alongside draft picks Nick Herbig and Quincy Roche. He’s also the fifth new defender coming via free agency, which includes his former Cardinals teammate Patrick Peterson.

Golden can now provide an extra teacher to the rookies and an extra set of hands to the Steelers’ EDGE room — a room that needed additional depth.

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