Snapshot: Robert Golden

One of the Steelers' prize undrafted rookie free agents, Robert Golden is coming off an impressive showing this spring in Pittsburgh. Dale Lolley has the details.

For four years at Arizona, Robert Golden was a man without a position.

Don't misunderstand, Golden was always on the field for the Wildcats.

Unlike some, who don't have a natural position because they aren't quite good enough to man a certain spot, Golden's problem was the opposite. He was so talented that the coaching staff at Arizona didn't hesitate to move him to fill whatever hole cropped up in its secondary.

As a freshman in 2007, that meant stepping in as a replacement at cornerback for Jim Thorpe winner Antoine Cason. The following season, he shifted to free safety. Then, it was back to corner for his junior campaign before finishing up his senior season at strong safety.

Golden was solid in the secondary no matter where the coaching staff put him, but all of the moving around had a price.

After being one of the top defensive backs in the country coming out of Edison High School in Fresno, Calif., where he played for former USC and NFL star Tim McDonald, Golden was not invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. He then went undrafted.

"I felt like (playing different positions) hurt me going into the draft, but I feel like it's going to be beneficial to me once I'm able to get myself established here in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers," said Golden who signed as an undrafted rookie with the Steelers.

"It's going to bring a lot of value to what I can do as far as helping our secondary get to the next level."

Because he had moved around so much, many teams were unsure if Golden (5-11, 200) was a cornerback or a safety. The Steelers have put Golden at free safety.

Because of his college experience, Golden feels he has a leg up in learning what everyone around him is doing.

"I'm able to grasp the defense really well here with the Steelers because I played all of those different positions," he said. "There are a lot of great safeties in the NFL, so it depends on what you bring to the table."

One thing that Golden brings to the table is a physical style. He packed on 20 pounds of muscle in his final two seasons at Arizona and is an aggressive tackler, as his 129 tackles over his final two seasons would suggest.

But Golden also has a nose for the end zone. Though he only had four career interceptions, he scored on two of them, including a 91-yarder last year against Washington in which he weaved his way down the field, changing directions and making would-be tacklers miss.

"I played quarterback and receiver (in high school), so I was able to understand once I got the ball how to switch hands and how to make defenders miss," Golden said. "It's always been a thing for me, once I get the ball in my hands, I want to score."

He was pretty adept at keeping the other team from scoring as well.

Matching up one-on-one as a cornerback against Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon in the Alamo Bowl in 2010, Golden held his own against the future top-10 draft pick.

Blackmon got behind Golden early in the game for a 71-yard touchdown catch when the safety was slow to rotate over the top, but Golden gave as good as he got the rest of the game.

Blackmon finished with 9 catches for 117 yards and 2 touchdowns – the second came on a 3-yard catch – but Golden had 5 tackles and 4 pass defenses.

"I felt like I did well against him. He respected my game and I respected him," Golden said. "He was a really physical guy and I was able to compete against him. After the game, he came up to me and said that I was one of the best he had gone against all year. I felt pretty confident about that."

Confidence is one thing Golden has in bunches. McDonald, a former All-Pro safety, helped instill that in his players at Edison, which has sent more defensive backs to college in the past decade than any other California high school.

"They taught all of our DBs that we were the best in the nation," Golden said. "I was able to play with T.J. McDonald, who went to USC, and Cliff Harris, who went to Oregon. Coming from high school, we felt like we were the best. We liked to carry that swagger on and off the field."

And even going unselected in the draft didn't cause Golden's confidence to sag. In fact, it drives him.

"I came in here knowing that I would have to work. I have a chip on my shoulder," Golden said. "I feel like I didn't get what I deserved. So now I have to come in here and continue to work hard and prove that I'm capable of playing on this level. I know I have the talent."

(Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.)

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