The Steelers inside linebackers proved they could be a strength of the team in the preseason. In a larger sample size than most positions, Cole Holcomb, Kwon Alexander, and Elandon Roberts each flashed their strengths over the three games. Roberts came out against Atlanta and proved what he could do against a team focused on running the ball first and passing it second. On the team’s first drive, Roberts made a tackle for loss, a sack, and blew up another play, causing an incompletion.
The thumper of the Steelers inside linebackers room got his chance to play against a run-heavy team and delivered in spades. Roberts flew over the football field. On that sack, Roberts green dogged downhill for a sack on a heads-up play that only a veteran would make.
— Tommy Jaggi (@TommyJaggi) August 25, 2023
A ‘green dog’ is when the defensive players call an audible to blitz the quarterback in man coverage because their assignment stayed into block. Roberts had the running back or tight end, likely the tight end, and decided the moment he saw the tight end stay in to block out on Markus Golden that he would blitz. For a veteran like Roberts, it’s just another day on the job for a play like this, but this type of downhill intensity is something the Steelers have sorely lacked in their inside linebacker room.
There were several big hits he pulled off throughout the night. But in the largest showcase of his ability yet, Roberts rose to the challenge and proved that he is the most valuable in the room. No one is a better run defender than Roberts in that room. That is where he makes his due.
Make no mistake, Roberts in coverage will not impress you as a viewer. He competes in coverage, but the Steelers acquired the services of Alexander, a proven coverage inside linebacker, for good reason. Now that Roberts can focus solely on what he does best and attack downhill, the Steelers have a legitimate run-stopper that shoots gaps without fear. Good teams play to their players’ strengths, and Roberts has plenty of those. Pittsburgh just accentuates those strengths, and the Falcons turned out to be a great matchup for Roberts to flash his skill set against on Thursday.