Why isn’t OLB Markus Golden under contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers?

The question is simple enough; the answer probably is, too, but we’re just not privy to it. On paper, it makes all the sense in the world for the Pittsburgh Steelers to re-sign Markus Golden. He was an effective and productive rotational edge defender for the team last season, and he was cheap as well.

The Steelers signed Golden to a Veteran Salary Benefit contract following the 2023 NFL Draft last year. He clearly didn’t have a burgeoning market in spite of fairly recent success as a starter. Undersized and on the wrong side of 30, he has things working against him if he’s looking for a starting job.

But perhaps that’s precisely why the Steelers haven’t re-signed him as of yet. Perhaps he’s waiting until after the 2024 NFL Draft to see where the best opportunity for him is. Golden knows the Steelers think highly of 2023 rookie Nick Herbig and worries he’ll see a reduced role.

They still used Golden as the first man up last season ahead of Herbig, whom they drafted before signing Golden. But it’s not hard to guess that they believe Herbig can be the top rotational edge defender this year in addition to his special teams.

I can’t come up with a reason why, on the Steelers’ end, they might not want to re-sign him, however. He played quite well considering his opportunities and compensation. But he remembers being inactive for one game for special teams purposes.

In light of that, I’m inclined to work under the assumption that Golden is keeping the ball in his court and seeing where things lead. I can hardly blame him if that’s the case. Some team is going to have a need for a veteran pass rusher with good recent tape following the draft. But you can’t sign with them if you’re already under contract elsewhere.

The Steelers’ 2023 season has been put out of its misery, ending as so many have before in recent years: a disappointing, blowout playoff loss. The only change-up lately is when they miss the playoffs altogether. But with the Buffalo Bills stamping them out in the Wildcard Round, they have another long offseason ahead.

The biggest question hanging over the team is the quarterback question. Does Russell Wilson make them a Super Bowl-caliber team, or are they wasting a year? Will he play just one season in Pittsburgh before moving on, or the Steelers moving on from him? How will the team address the depth chart?

The Steelers are swirling with more questions this offseason than usual, frankly, though the major free agent list is less substantial than usual. It’s just a matter of…what happens next? Where do they go from here? How do they find the way forward?


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