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Can Markus Golden be a Difference Maker for Steelers? Stats Say Yes



Steelers OLB Markus Golden

PITTSBURGH — It’s official, Markus Golden is coming to the Pittsburgh Steelers after his tryout on Wednesday went well and they agreed to terms. However, there is a concerning drop in his sack production from 11 sacks in 2021 to 2.5 sacks in 2022. Is that concerning for his level of play or is there something more here with Golden?

So, for one, he’s had three 10 or more sack seasons in his career and then after each one, has a dramatic drop. That’s interesting in itself, but the pressures never really dropped off for Golden this season. In 2021, he had 44 pressures but posted 46 pressures in 2022 according to Pro Football Focus. Meanwhile, his QB hits went up significantly from 9 in 2021 to 17 in 2022. Now, the key here is that Golden did have about 80 more pass rush snaps in 2022, so the rates went down a bit.

Does that mean Markus Golden is beginning to fall off, however? Let’s consider a few factors. For one, the pass rush win rate actually went up in 2022 versus 2021. That’s another positive sign for Golden to have a solid role as a rotational player. This year, Golden will potentially have Alex Highsmith or T.J. Watt on the other side of him. Remember that he did not have Chandler Jones last year after he was moved to the Las Vegas Raiders.

Those are a few signs that Golden’s productivity is set to continue. Aside from sacks, he either exceeded his stats from 2021 or came close to exceeding them with a worse ecosystem around himself to do so. Pittsburgh’s defensive line is one of the better ones in the NFL, especially if you are a technical rotational pass rusher that will be asked to be the primary depth behind Highsmith and Watt.

With Golden, there’s more than meets the eye in this entire situation. Golden has all the pass rush plan tools you could want. He has counters, multiple moves, and decent enough bend, even at 32 years old. The one thing Golden will not have that Highsmith and Watt do have is explosiveness and innate athleticism. To be honest, I’m not sure Golden was ever an elite athlete compared to his peers, but that is not how he wins, anyways. Golden wins through his craftiness, savviness, and hand usage.

So, I would expect Golden to be a productive pass rusher for the Steelers situationally. They have not had that on the team since Melvin Ingram was on the team. For a full season, you can go back to 2020 when Bud Dupree was the starter and Highsmith was the primary guy off the edge.

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