PITTSBURGH — When the Steelers lost Cole Holcomb and Kwon Alexander for the season, they turned to Mykal Walker, a veteran on the team’s practice squad for three weeks, to fill the void left behind. That’s anything but an easy assignment for the Steelers to take in, but Elandon Roberts has played well and is helping that group get along. But it has been Walker who has become a stabilizing force for the team on the other side.
The Bengals went right at Walker for most of the game and away from Roberts. They were trying to attack him, but it did not matter much. He seemed to rise to the occasion yet again. So far, in his first two starts, Walker is impressing the Steelers with what he brings to the table.
“I like what he’s done,” head coach Mike Tomlin said. “I think it’s reasonable to expect him to continue to get better in terms of detail and knowing what todo. In terms of how he communicates. And so, I’m excited about this week’s work, but really appreciative of his efforts to this point. This challenge getting on a moving train, and he’s done a nice job of it.”
Last week. defensive coordinator Teryl Austin had plenty of praise for Walker after the team’s game in Cleveland and sees that he met exactly the standard that they thought a veteran of his caliber would have.
“Mykal has played a lot of football. He has played a lot more football than Trent[on] ,and so we expected a solid NFL type game out of Mike, and that’s what we got” Austin said. “Yeah, somewhere. It was a few weeks ago. You know, we like to bring them in, throw them in hot. He’s been here. He’s sharp. He’s a really sharp guy. There was a lot of things –you know, a lot of times in this league there is a lot of similarities, and so really the things that hold guys back are getting into the terminology that’s familiar to them and how they’re playing it, and he’s done a great job. Like I said, he’s a really bright guy and so he’ll continue to get better the more reps he gets.”
Walker will tell you that his greatest asset is his versatility. He’s not wrong. But his experience for the Steelers is a massive asset, too. A fourth-round pick in 2020 out of Fresno State, Walker is a veteran with plenty of playing experience. Over his three years in Atlanta, he racked up 187 tackles, two forced fumbles, three interceptions, and one sack. In those years, he started 20 games for the Falcons, with 2021 being his most impressive season as an NFL player.
Pittsburgh now has a room laden with veterans even after the injuries to Alexander and Holcomb. Walker is the leader in the clubhouse to play next to Roberts, who had a standout game himself. But Pittsburgh believes they might have something in Walker to embrace.