PITTSBURGH — His entire career, Steelers linebacker Elandon Roberts has heard that he can not cover well, even in select short areas. While he was not asked to carry someone down the seam against the Cleveland Browns, Roberts made plays all over the field in coverage. And that prompted an exuberant response once coming off his 15-tackle performance.
“Not bad for a guy who can’t cover,” Roberts said.
Roberts has stepped up tremendously at inside linebacker with Cole Holcomb and Kwon Alexander out for the season. Over the last two games, Roberts has recorded 29 tackles, 17 of which were solos, and three tackles for loss. They thought the run-stopping and leadership were natural things he brought. But the coverage ability might be even more than the Steelers thought they were getting. Roberts may have played 100 percent of snaps for the first time in his career last Sunday, but he earned them. He never realized how many tackles he made until the end of the game.
“I didn’t even know I had that many tackles until the end of the game,” Roberts said. “I was really just out there doing my job, communicating, trying to get the defense into the right place.”
But defensive coordinator Teryl Austin wanted to highlight more of what Roberts could do than make a lot of tackles. The coverage ability popped off the tape on Sunday against the Browns. Roberts was often tasked with following Jerome Ford and Kareem Hunt to the flat. When he asked there, it was David Njoku in the short zones.
Officially, Roberts allowed 11 receptions on 14 targets but allowed 49 yards. In other words, the Steelers will take that every day. And Roberts made several tackles in the flat that jumped off the tape. Cleveland never got easy yards after the catch in the areas where Roberts was on Sunday.
“Yeah, he did an outstanding job. I tell you, the one area that was really outstanding for him was the amount of times he was matched up in the flat and the amount of flat tackles that he made,” Austin said. “A lot times he was one-on-one, and if the guy catches the ball and runs from there, it’s going to be a pretty sizable gain. So was excited about E having an opportunity to do that. We kind of leaned on him because he had been here the longest, knows our stuff even though he hadn’t played a lot of dime defense for us. He did it and did it well.”
The Steelers signed Roberts to a two-year, $7 million contract on March 16, 2023 after his contract with the Miami Dolphins expired following the 2022 season. Roberts, 29, started 92 of 127 games in his career with the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins and Steelers. He won two Super Bowls with the Patriots and was a captain in Miami.
Roberts is now wearing the green dot, and the communication was pretty good overall for the defense. He has been described as the alpha of the room, and the other guys are following his lead. So far, he has done an excellent job in spots the Steelers did not even know he could break out in overall.