PITTSBURGH — Look around Pittsburgh’s defense and try to find encouraging signs at the inside linebacker position. There aren’t many after the team lost Kwon Alexander and Cole Holcomb for the season. However, the one gem there shines brighter than the rest for the Steelers. That would be veteran Elandon Roberts.
On a bad groin, Roberts toughed it on Thursday. The team initially intended to keep Roberts’ snaps down. They rotated all four inside linebackers to keep them fresh and not overwork Roberts. Still, as Mykal Walker struggled more, Roberts played more, even forcing an interception into Walker’s hands. That’s just become what he is as a player, and he has ascended to another level since stepping up in a bigger role.
In large part, Roberts, the green dot wearer, had to be out there with communication breaking down everywhere. The defense could not communicate a lick without him on the field. Roberts even stayed on the field on one play to relay the call and then ran off. The group was in disarray until he played through pain, and he knew he felt it, but he did it anyway.
“I’m always the type of player, I will never use an excuse. I was out there. I was ready to go for my team,” Roberts said.
He gets it. The Steelers have an invaluable player in that room in Roberts. Looking back on it, it’s almost criminal how little he actually played even when Alexander and Holcomb were healthy. He is fearless in the run game. If you ever needed a guy to destroy a pulling guard in the B-gap, Roberts will do that. He is a fantastic blitzer, too. In coverage, he is not straight line fast, but he can move from side to side better than people think and tries his hardest on every rep. That’s about all you can ask for from that guy.
That room is still shaky for the Steelers. There’s not enough talent there, and that’s no fault of anyone else. You can’t lose two key starters like that. But Roberts is doing his best to keep the ship afloat. He’s the captain now, and he shows he is deserving every week.