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Scrappy Steelers OLB Earns Standout Honor from ESPN



Steelers OLB Markus Golden
Steelers OLB Markus Golden at practice, Sept. 6, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Steelers allowed far too many rushing yards for their liking in Week 1. Christian McCaffrey and the 49ers offensive line busted big play after big play against the front, but one player stood out in run defense — Markus Golden. The former Cardinals outside linebacker earned a solid 77.3 PFF grade on 21 snaps against the 49ers.

While doing that, 16 of those 21 snaps were against the run. ESPN gave out their top rankings at each win rate, and no edge rusher had a more successful Week 1 against the run than Golden, posting a 58% win rate. Other rankings among the league’s top were T.J. Watt at pass rush win rate among edge rushers and Keeanu Benton at pass rush win rate among defensive tackles.

However, back to Golden, he remains an undervalued player on the Steelers front. Most of the issues for the run defense did not come from the edge rushers but on the interior and second level. Golden’s made his money in the NFL by embracing the scrappy prepositions of the position. Not every player wants to stick their nose in the run game like Golden will, but without the elite athletic skills of most guys, Golden will do everything he can to make up that ground.

In the past, that led Golden to productive seasons. Golden’s pressure rate remains high even when he does not register many sacks. His run-stopping is never questioned, as it is his best trait. Golden plays with significant leverage and hand usage and, with multiple quick moves, can quickly get into the chest of offensive tackles with his power moves. That stuns guys since Golden does not have elite burst, but his technical savvy overcomes most of his athletic limitations.

Now a season veteran, Golden is a leader in the outside linebacker room. They brought him on board to play a significant role if T.J. Watt or Alex Highsmith would go down. If what Golden showcased on Sunday is how he plays the rest of the year, Golden should be able to do just that for most of the season.

RELATED: Steelers All 90: Markus Golden Embraces Essential Depth OLB Role

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