Elandon Roberts addition continues Steelers inside linebacker revamp for 2023 #NFL #Football


The Pittsburgh Steelers activity in free agency continues at an unexpected pace, as new General Manager Omar Khan and Assistant General Manager Any Weidl continue to add and subtract from what will become the 2023 roster.

This has been most evident with the middle of the Steelers defense, specifically the middle linebackers. Last year’s group, which included former first-round pick Devin Bush, undrafted street free agent Robert Spillane, and former Jacksonville Jaguar, and 2022 signing Myles Jack, stands to look drastically different this season.

That’s because the Steelers didn’t re-sign Bush, who is still a free agent as this writing, or Spillane, who took a two-year deal worth upwards of $9 million with the Las Vegas Raiders.

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Furthermore, the team announced the signing of former Washington Commanders LB Cole Holcomb, who projects as a three-down backer. It was assumed that Holcomb, who wore the green dot (i.e. helmet radio) and called Washington’s defensive plays, would be Bush’s replacement, however the Steelers kept on moving Thursday, announcing the signing of Elandon Roberts.

Roberts’ signing made Myles Jack expendable, as he was shortly released thereafter, saving the team $8 million toward their 2023 salary cap.

Roberts, who played his first four seasons in the NFL with the New England Patriots and his last three with the Miami Dolphins, is a run-stuffing inside linebacker with a nose for the football. Roberts has appeared in 107 games with 76 starts over seven seasons and will turn 29-years-old in April.

In seventeen games last season, Roberts set career-highs with 107 combined tackles, 10 tackles-for-loss, and 4.5 sacks. He also pressured the quarterback six times.

All of those figures are more than what Bush, Jack, and Spillane combined for in 2022.

Selected by the New England Patriots in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Roberts would be named a team captain in his final season under Bill Belichick. After signing with the Dolphins in 2019, Roberts would again be named a team captain by his peers in every season he was with Miami.

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He will bring that leadership to Pittsburgh, joining Holcomb as first-year Steelers who were also former captains with their previous teams. (Holcomb was a captain with the Commanders in 2022.)

However, Roberts and Holcomb aren’t the only overhaul in Pittsburgh’s push to be better against the run in 2023, as they said goodbye to long-time inside linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky, who was formerly an inside linebacker with the team before becoming a defensive assistant in 2010 and taking over the position group in 2015 (when Keith Butler was promoted to defensive coordinator).

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Brian Flores, also known for his work with linebackers, left for a defensive coordinator job in Minnesota after one year with the Steelers. The organization pursued an outside hire, Aaron Curry, as their new inside linebackers coach.

Curry, who played in the NFL for the Seahawks and Raiders over a four-year span, transitioned into coaching in the pros with Seattle over the last four seasons. His addition, along with the two free agent signings, may not be the end of Pittsburgh looking to improve their linebacker play.

However, for now, it represents a significant overhaul. 2022 rookie Mark Robinson, who finally saw more playing time toward the end of last season, also factors into part of the defensive makeover, but I wouldn’t count out at least one more addition in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft to help solidify depth and the potential future of this group.

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