PITTSBURGH — The Steelers revamped inside linebacker room is the most significant adjustment the defense will make in 2023. Myles Jack, Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, and Marcus Allen are all gone. Instead, Cole Holcomb, Elandon Roberts, Kwon Alexander, and Tanner Muse are in, with Mark Robinson being the only holdover the team still has from last year’s group. They even have a new coach in Aaron Curry, after Brian Flores left to take the defensive coordinator job with the Minnesota Vikings.
So far, this preseason and training camp, the three new guys have played at a high level of Steelers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin’s group. Regarding the depth on the defense, Austin noted that he “actually kinda likes’ his inside linebackers. The rotation the team will have is mainly set. Holcomb is the three-down, do-it-all guy who plays in base and nickel packages. On Thursday, Roberts will play on run-downs in base and see an uptick in his playing time against run-heavy teams, such as the Falcons. Alexander is the dime linebacker who comes in to relieve Roberts in the team’s nickel package and on obvious passing downs.
“No, I kind of like it the way we do it,” Austin said of the rotation. “I think it’ll be you know, by committee, a little bit in terms of who we’re playing and what kind of group we’re playing and how they fit with what we want to do that week. We got three starting linebackers, three starter capable linebackers. They’ve all started, they’ve all done a good job, and they’re doing a really good job for us here.”
Pittsburgh tried out a new committee approach last year. After investing so much into the position for two starters over the years, and it never works, they seem to have accepted that a committee could be the way to go. Most NFL teams now use committees at inside linebacker and specialize the skill sets of those players to certain moments to highlight their strengths. There are only so many inside linebackers that can be three-down guys and excel in every situation defenses put them in, so the Steelers are following the NFL’s lead.
Robinson might not be starter-capable yet, but he is a heat-seeking missile that can play in the goal line and run heavy packages. So, Pittsburgh might be four deep at the position when they put together those rotations. Austin and Mike Tomlin should be happy about the way those four players have played in the summer and preseason.