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Bigger Role Coming for Steelers Linebacker?



Steelers Kwon Alexander

PITTSBURGH — If you had to take a guess at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ leading tackler through two games, it might come as a surprise that it’s a player who has yet to start a game.

Inside linebacker Kwon Alexander has collected the most tackles the first two weeks of the season with 17, three more than second-most Alex Highsmith (14).

That level of production might be lining up with a bigger role for Alexander in the near future.

When head coach Mike Tomlin broke down his depth chart at the beginning of the season, he said that he considered all three of his insider linebackers to be starter-quality.

But it’s been Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts who have started each of the team’s first two games. Holcomb has also maintained a snap-count advantage, playing 131 over the first two games, compared to 99 for Alexander and 56 for Roberts.

That could be changing, though. Alexander was wearing the team’s green-dot communicator helmet at practice this week, which could be a sign that his elevated production in terms of tackling could have him in line for more of a workload.

Manning the green dot is nothing new for Alexander, as he’s done it multiple times over the years, and neither is playing a starter’s reps.

“It’s been smooth,” Alexander said. “I’ve had the dot before. I played Mike linebacker my first four years. … It ain’t nothing different. I just get the call and then go out there and do the work.

The change could also be an effort to continue to clear up communication issues that cropped up during the team’s Week 1 loss to San Francisco. 

“I thought in Week 1, I thought our communication was strained and lacked fluidity and thus we didn’t play as collectively fast or assure or connected as we’re capable of,” head coach Mike Tomlin said. “First game out in our home venue, a lot of guys new to us — maybe not necessarily the National Football League but new to us. We worked harder at that this week. I thought we were better (in Week 2), but I still think we have room for growth.”

The other area the Steelers could improve has been where Alexander has specialized. The Steelers are in the bottom third of the league in missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus, and Roberts and Holcomb have both missed a greater percentag than Alexander so far.