Multiplicity? New Steelers OLB Markus Golden’s Stats Nearly Identical to Bud Dupree’s

When the 2023 off season began, Steelers fans were unanimous about one move they wanted the team to make: Bring back Bud Dupree. Omar Khan tried, but Dupree declined.

  • Last week Steelers fans just might have gotten what they wanted anyway.

Last week the Steelers came to terms with Markus Golden, a free agent outside linebacker who has spent his career with the Arizona Cardinals sans a 23 game stint in 2019 and 2020 with the New York Giants.

Markus Golden, Le'Veon Bell

Markus Golden (far left wearing number 44) tackles Le’Veon Bell. Photo Credit: Shelley LIpton/UPI

Let me state at the outset that I know next to nothing about Markus Golden and stress that he deserves to be considered as is own man.

  • But statically speaking he appears to be Bud Dupree’s clone.

Just glance at some stats compiled by Carlos Ortega, founder of the Mexican site Steelers Tres Sesenta.

Bud Dupree Markus Golden Stats

Stats compiled from Pro Football Reference by Carlos Ortega

In football you often times hear that “so and so is a mirror image of such and such player.” Heck, In talking about Jack Lambert and Jack Ham, George Perles used to say, “There’s a lot of Ham in Lambert and a lot of Lambert in Ham.” Chuck Noll endorsed that idea in Dan Rooney’s self-titled autobiography.

  • But the statistical similarity between Markus Golden and Bud Dupree is uncanny.

Assuming that Golden is OK with playing third fiddle behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, the Steelers should enjoy the best depth at outside linebacker since 2020, when Highsmith backed up Watt and Dupree.

But is that safe assumption?

Perhaps Fourth Time Is the Charm for Pittsburgh?

Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan can be forgiven if they’re crossing their fingers and clutching their Rosary Beads hoping that Markus Golden works out. Because the Steelers have followed the beg, borrow or steal routine to build depth at outside linebacker.

In July 2021 the Steelers signed Melvin Ingram, and it looked like a minor steal. Ingram played well given his role, but it was a role he was unhappy to play. He demanded a trade. Mike Tomlin complied, later explaining “He did not want to be here.”

Last year the Steelers traded for Malik Reed at the end of August. Reed had performed well while backup in up Von Miller in Denver, but he was invisible while T.J. Watt was injured.

After the Steelers traded Ingram to the Chiefs, they signed Taco Charlton. He didn’t work out. They had Derrek Tuszka on their roster for 15 games in 2021, not that you’d remember.

They signed Genard Avery in 2022, then cut him in preseason. They’ve brought Tuzar Skipper back only to release him as injured/waived. They’ve drafted, cut and resigned Quincy Roche. Jamir Jones has been on an off the roster, even getting a couple of exclusive and/or restricted free agent tenders. He’s gone.

Hopefully, with Markus Golden the fourth time will prove to be the charm for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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What’s Going On? Steelers Sign of Armon Watts, Cut Jamir Jones Raising Questions about Depth

Most of the Steelers moves in free agency under Omar Khan thus far have been pretty easy to understand thus far. But this week has brought some head-scratchers.

Jamir Jones,

Jamir Jones in 2021. Photo Credit: USA Today via the Rams Wire.

Although it hasn’t been confirmed, the Steelers signed free agent defensive tackle Armon Watts. A few days later the Steelers announced that they had cut outside linebacker Jamir Jones, just a few weeks after extending an restricted free agent offer.

The Watts’ signing is a bit of a surprise, given that the Steelers have already signed Breiden Fehoko who is also a fellow defensive tackle. As Tim Benz of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, points out, this double dip on the part of the Steelers is understandable given that they’re basically replacing Chris Wormley and Tyson Alualu two free agents who won’t be back.

  • What’s more puzzling is the decision to cut Jamir Jones.

Jamir Jones was the only experienced outside linebacker behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. And if it’s true the Jones coming in to spell Watt and/or Highsmith for an extended period would have left opposing offensive coordinators licking their chops, he did play nearly 60% of special teams snaps.

  • Are the Steelers signaling that another free agent signing at outside linebacker is imminent?

Perhaps Pittsburgh’s about to come to terms with Bud Dupree? Time will tell.

Thus far Omar Khan has basically followed the path Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin blazed in free agency of shoring up depth in key areas to avoid a situation where they need to reach to fill a need.

He’s done this at cornerback by bringing in Patrick Peterson, at inside linebacker by signing Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts and at guard (and center) by signing Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig.

  • Moreover, these signings have come positions which can be cost-effectively addressed in free agency.

Still, it is a little peculiar that Omar Khan would sign two guards and two interior defensive lineman while leaving the cupboard bear behind the Steelers starters at outside linebacker and offensive tackle – even if those positions expensive to fill via free agency.

With that said, with experience playing for the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears, Armon Watts has experience in 57 games, has made 22 starts in which he’s logged 8 sacks and forced 3 fumbles. Assuming he’s arriving in Pittsburgh at or near the veteran minimum he could be a good value signing.

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Not Necessary: Steelers Shouldn’t Tender Jamir Jones, Exclusive Rights Free Agent

The Pittsburgh Steelers are still looking for their next James Harrison.

Literally. Harrison first caught the Steelers eye as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2002. He got an invite to training camp but spent the next 2 years going on and off the roster and practice squad. Then Joey Porter got tossed in a pre-game scuffle at Cleveland, giving Harrison a chance to play defense and well, you know the rest.

Since then the Steelers have had several unheralded outside linebackers flash during the summer at St. Vincents and each time “they” ask, “Is this the next James Harrison?” You might remember some of their names Ola Adeniyi, Tuzar Skipper and finally Jamir Jones who is now an exclusive rights free agent.

Jamir Jones,

Jamir Jones in 2021. Photo Credit: USA Today via the Rams Wire.

Capsule Profile of Jamir Jones Career with the Steelers

The Steelers signed Jamir Jones as an undrafted rookie free agent in the spring of 2021. Jones played well in preseason, and earned a spot on the Steelers regular season roster. He saw action in the 2021 opening day win over the Bills, got a quarterback hit in the home opening loss to the Bengals, and even got a start in the home opener loss to the Raiders.

  • The Steelers cut him after that.

He got picked up by the Los Angeles Rams where he played 10 games before getting cut. He was then picked up by the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he played 2 games. Jacksonville cut him at the end of camp, but the Steelers picked him up off of waivers.

Jones appeared in all 17 games for the Steelers, logging 57% of the special teams snaps but only logged 86 snaps on defense, although he did defend a Joe Burrow pass intended for Joe Mixon during the 2022 season opening upset of the Bengals.

The Case for the Steelers Resigning Jamir Jones

At this point in the spring of 2004 was there anyone who was saying, “The Steelers MUST bring back James Harrison no ifs ands or buts?” Point made.

The Steelers outside linebacker depth behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith has been a liability for years. The Malik Reed, Melvin Ingram and Taco Charlton experiments have all failed each in their unique way. Steelers coaches saw enough in Jones to give him a second chance. They should let him finish it.

The Case Against the Steelers Resigning Jamir Jones

88%, 83% and 8%. Those are the snap count totals for Alex Highsmith, T.J. Watt and Jamir Jones. Clearly you want to former two playing as much as possible. But you also want a player behind them who is capable of giving them a breather, the way Arthur Moats did a few years back.

Jamir Jones hasn’t shown a hint of being able to do that. It is time to move on.

Curtain’s Call on the Steelers and Jamir Jones

Jamir Jones isn’t the next James Harrison. Could he grow into another Arthur Moats? Um… maybe.

But no one will throw money at Jamir Jones, so the Steelers shouldn’t offer him an Exclusive Free Agent Tender and can bring him back to St. Vincents at their convenience and at a lower salary cap cost.

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Steelers 2023 Free Agent Tracker

The Steelers 2023 off season is about to kick into high gear. The Scouting Combine is this week and free agency is only a few weeks away.

And this will be the first time Mike Tomlin has navigated the free agent waters without Kevin Colbert. General Manager Omar Khan and Assistant General Manager Andy Weidl will now work with Tomlin to guide the Steelers through the first off season of the Kenny Pickett Era.

Omar Khan, Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager Omar Khan

Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager Omar Khan, Photo Credit: Nola.com

Although the Steelers salary cap situation is generally considered to be healthy, Omar Khan will certainly need to make moves to allow the Steelers to maneuver.

And maneuver they will need to do, as Pittsburgh has 23 free agents to make decisions on this spring.

Here is a look at the lay of the land before the chess pieces begin to move.

Click on the highlighted names for a full profile of each Steelers free agent.

Steelers 2023 Free Agent Signings

Christian Kuntz, long snapper
Signed 1 year exclusive rights free agent tender 2/23/2023
Jamir Jones, Outside linebacker
As an exclusive rights free agent, signed one year deal on 2/27/2023
Patrick Patterson, Cornerback
Signs 2 year 14 million dollar contract with $5.85 million in guarantees on 3/13/2023
Larry Ogunjobi, Defensive Tackle
Signs 3 year 28 million dollar contract on 3/14/2023
Damontae Kazee, Safety
Signs 2 year contract on 3/14/2023
Nate Herbig, Guard
Signs 2 year contract on 3/14/2023
Cole Holcomb, Inside Linebacker
Signs 3 year contract on 3/15/2023
Elandon Roberts, Inside Linebacker
Signs 2 year contract on 3/16/2023
Isaac Seumalo, Guard
Signs 3 year contract on 3/18/2023
James Pierre, Cornerback
Signs 1 year contract on 3/22/2023
Le’Raven Clark, Offensive Tackle
Signs 1 year contract on 3/24/2023
Zach Gentry, Tight End
Resigns with Steelers on 3/25/2023 — signing not confirmed 1 week later
Keanu Neal, Strong Safety
Signs 2 year contract with Steeles on 3/30/2023
Breiden Fehoko, Nose Tackle
Signs 1 year contract on 3/30/2023

Steelers 2023 Free Agent Losses

Cam Sutton, Cornerback
Signs 3 year contract with the Detroit Lions, for 33 million dollars in change and 22 million in guarantees
Robert Spillane, Inside Linebacker
Signs 2 year contract with Las Vegas Raiders
Devin Bush, Inside Linebacker
Signs 1 year contract with Seattle Seahawks
Malik Reed, Outside Linebacker
Signs 1 year contract with the Miami Dolphins
Terrell Edmunds, Strong Safety
Signs 1 year contract with Philadelphia Eagles
Trent Scott, Right Tackle
Signs 1 year contract with Washington Commanders
Steven Sims, Wide Receiver
Signs 1 year contract with Houston Texans
J.C. Hassenauer, Center/Guard
Signs 1 year contract with New York Giants

Restricted Free Agents

Jeremy McNichols, Running Back

Unrestricted Free Agents

Mason Rudolph, Quarterback,
Derek Watt, Fullback
Benny Snell Jr., Running Back

Chris Wormley, Defensive End
Miles Boykin, Wide Receiver
Tyson Alualu, Nose Tackle
Karl Joseph, Safety
Marcus Allen, Inside Linebacker

Yeah, Omar Khan certainly has his work cut out for him. Steel Curtain Rising will be here to cover it all, adding capsule profiles as they’re ready and updating signings as they occur.

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Report Card For Steelers 29-17 Loss To Browns on TNF

Quarterback

Mitchell Trubisky had his best game of the 2022 regular season against the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on Thursday Night Football. Unfortunately, that might be damning Trubisky with faint praise. Yes, he did look much better in the first half while leading the offense to two scoring drives, including a one-yard run to give Pittsburgh a 14-13 lead late in the second quarter. But the offense was almost non-existent in the second half and was forced to punt on its first three possessions. All-in-all, Trubisky completed 20 of 32 passes for 207 yards and may have had a slightly better night had receiver Diontae Johnson been able to hold onto a pass down the right sideline late in the third quarter with the Browns leading, 16-14. Grade: C

Running Backs

Najee Harris had his best game of the young season, rushing for 56 yards and a five-yard touchdown on 15 carries. Meanwhile, rookie Jaylen Warren had a bit of a breakout game in his own right, rushing for 30 yards on four carries. Unfortunately for Warren–and Trubisky and his night–a short pass that resulted in a 35-yard catch and run by Warren early in the third quarter was wiped out by a penalty on right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor and killed a promising Steelers drive that may have extended their one-point halftime lead. Grade: C+

Tight Ends

Pat Freiermuth didn’t catch any passes until the final moments when he reeled in two for 41 yards with the Steelers desperately trying to claw their way back from a 23-14 hole. Zach Gentry didn’t receive a single target all night. Grade: C-

Wide Receivers

Rookie George Pickens made the catch of the year when, while falling backward, he reached out with his left hand to snag a pass from Trubisky for a 36-yard gain in the first half. Sadly, Pickens would go on to catch just two more passes for two more yards. Johnson had a decent night, catching eight passes for 84 yards. He may have had an even bigger night had he been able to pull in that aforementioned deep ball from Trubisky late in the third period. Yes, he was covered well on the play and would have had to make a one-handed grab, but he’s the big money man of the receiving corps now and could have helped his quarterback out at that point in a close game. Grade: C

Offensive Line

The line played its best game of the 2022 campaign. But even though Trubisky was only sacked once and hit twice, and even though the Steelers rushed for 104 yards on 22 carries for 4.7, the offense was so impotent in the second half that it’s hard to give the unit anything but an average grade. Throw in the critical penalty on Okorafor that wiped on a huge gain, and that hurts the unit’s cause even more. Grade: C

Defensive Line

To say this Steelers’ defense, the highest-paid in the NFL, is simply average without T.J. Watt would be an understatement, and that starts up front with the defensive line. Cameron Heyward has been invisible since Watt’s injury. Has he faced more double teams? Sure, but that should be freeing up other guys to make plays, and they really have not. Larry Ogunjobi did record half a sack, but the Browns also rushed for 171 yards on 38 carries. Grade: C-

Linebackers

Both Myles Jack and Devin Bush had productive nights at inside linebacker, tallying 12 and 11 tackles, respectively. As for the outside linebackers, Alex Highsmith had a really good night, registering eight tackles, two quarterback hits and 1.5 sacks. Unfortunately, Highsmith’s counterparts on the other side–including Malik Reed and Jamir Jones–were sort of just there. Grade: B

Secondary

Not a good night for the secondary, as receiver Amari Cooper–seven catches for 101 yards and a touchdown–and tight end David Njoku–nine receptions for 89 yards and a score–dominated the entire game. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who had the game of his life in Week 1, failed to come close to that kind of performance for the second week in a row–and the Steelers need him to do that on a consistent basis with Watt out of action for some time. Grade: D

Special Teams

Kicker Chris Boswell proved that he wasn’t automatic from inside of 50 yards, by pulling a 49-yard attempt wide right early in the game. True, Boswell was kicking in windy conditions, but a successful try may have changed how the game unfolded down the stretch. Pressley Harvin III, 42.4 yards per punt on five boots, was solid if unspectacular. The return game was just there. Grade: C

Coaching

I hate to use a cliche and say that Mike Tomlin and Co. were outcoached over the final two periods after the Steelers played their best half to start the game, but it sure felt like it, didn’t it? Offensive coordinator Matt Canada is once again the subject of fan wrath thanks to an uninspired second-half showing. As for Teryl Austin, defensive guru Brian Flores and Tomlin, the brain trust of the defense, why haven’t they been able to scheme up any quarterback pressure in Watt’s absence? Grade: D

Unsung Hero Award

Left tackle Dan Moore Jr. held up quite well against Myles Garrett all night.

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