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Elandon Roberts Steps up as Spiritual Leader of Steelers Defense



Steelers LB Elandon Roberts
Steelers LB Elandon Roberts against the Baltimore Ravens, Jan. 6, 2024 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — Some guys quintessentially look and play like Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s not hard to spot them. These guys pop out in one practice or some press conference settings. From the first time Elandon Roberts took the field at training camp, he looked like one of those players who somehow hopped around the league but evaded the Black and Gold for far too long. He fits right in.

Roberts is playing through a pectoral injury that still bothers him. He wears a massive brace and, after each tackle, reaches for it, but he continues. But even with one arm, he makes tackles in space. Then, more than that, Roberts creates his mentality for the team. When asked why he just keeps playing through such an injury, he didn’t mince words.

“Well, there was never a question,” Roberts said. “I’m a Pittsburgh Steeler. That’s what I do. That’s what I had to do.”

Roberts is the last of the three inside linebackers that Omar Khan had signed in the offseason to transform the room. Roberts, Kwon Alexander, and Cole Holcomb created a fantastic trio before Alexander and Holcomb went down for the year with injuries.

Now, he’s the glue to the room of Mykal Walker, Myles Jack, Mark Robinson, and Blake Martinez. But Roberts keeps playing, even if it is a limited fashion. But if you see him on the injury report, you should probably expect him to play, or at least that’s his own words.

“There’s no question if y’all see me pop up on the injury report, y’all just, ‘he playing,'” Roberts said.

Steelers ILB Elandon Roberts

Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Elandon Roberts at practice on Jan. 3, 2024. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

And that’s before he gets onto the field. Throughout this year, and in the many interactions I have had with Roberts, he has noted he has two different sides, with his unhinged, on-the-field version being E-Rob, but the guy we talk to in the locker room is Elandon.

It tracks. Roberts is an unhinged missile. I remember talking to Patrick Peterson about him in training camp, and he called him a heat-seeking missile. But that’s the expectation that Roberts set with the group right away. He stepped into the defensive meetings early in the offseason, even before training camp, and told everyone that he would destroy opponents and become a vocal leader for the defense.

Roberts is the spiritual successor to the torch that Vince Williams left behind. He is the boisterous, reckless player this team loves and has boasted throughout its history. Roberts is that guy. What’s it like playing on the field with him? Isaiahh Loudermilk explained it pretty quickly.

“When you’re in front of him, you hear him yelling, and you better be set up and ready to go,” Loudermilk said. “There are plays where I’ll be on a block and then you’ll just see a blur fly by you and destroy something, and the running back is on the ground. And you look, and it’s him. That’s who he is.”

Coming into this season, there might be questions about his coverage ability, which he has squashed on the field repeatedly. But players have rallied around ‘E-Rob’ on the football field. And his leadership has held together a defense that should be far worse for wear than they are now. In the first year of a two-year deal, Roberts will undoubtedly return in 2024. And it might be longer than that because Roberts is still just 29 years old.

Heading into a playoff game against the Bills, the Steelers will again draw on Roberts’ leadership. He’s a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Patriots. He understands what it takes to win. And Roberts will be ready to do his part in pulling off an upset win.