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How Kwon Alexander Changes the Steelers Defense



Steelers Kwon Alexander

The Steelers got the guy they wanted in Kwon Alexander to add to the inside linebacker room. After looking at multiple options and filling out the roster, Omar Khan struck a deal with Alexander, who visited the team over two months ago in May. But what does he actually bring to the table?

After the team signed Elandon Roberts, Cole Holcomb, and Tanner Muse all in the same offseason, the only true holdover from last season is Mark Robinson. Alexander would take up one of the two remaining roster spots that the team has at this point after three signings over the past day.

Kwon Alexander, at this stage in his career, is a grizzled veteran that could be described as a jack of all trades but a master of none. The biggest issue has been his health, so the medicals need to check out. Still, Alexander is coming off his first season since 2016 after playing in all 17 games in the 2022 season. That is a much-needed boost to the stock of his medicals and could see him continue his ascent if he can stay healthy.

What Kwon Alexander really allows the Steelers to do is specialize their inside linebacker room. Alexander is a coverage specialist first and foremost. In the past, he’s been a three-down linebacker, but the Jets used him last year as a sub-package and coverage specialist. With some serious injuries under his belt, Alexander is not what he used to be, but he maintained his coverage ability. That specialization of his role is the way the Steelers should attack this with him.

Moreover, Roberts can now work in a run-down role in base personnel. When the pads are on and he can play downhill, Roberts is at his best rather than moving from side-to-side and covering running backs. The Steelers will look to utilize that three inside linebacker rotation that they did last year with Myles Jack, Devin Bush, and Robert Spillane.

The roles could play out a little bit like this:

Holcomb — Three-Down Linebacker, the main guy

Roberts — Run First LB, plays on run downs in base and against run heavy teams

Alexander – Sub-Package LB who can play on obvious passing downs and fill in as Holcomb injury insurance

Keanu Neal – Dime LB

Neal has to be a factor in all of this because of his past experience as a linebacker. Moving him there full-time does not seem like the move, but his dime linebacker responsibilities are basically just being another defensive back. He bangs down in the box more often than anyone else in that room.

So, the Steelers now have a diversification of styles in their room. That’s good. It allows Teryl Austin and Mike Tomlin options to scheme up different things and trust that their personnel is versatile enough to be versatile within a scheme that does a little bit of everything. The competition will be great on the field, but make no mistake, the Steelers linebackers now have the versatility they need with different archetypes. Alexander’s coverage-first mentality is what the team was missing.

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