PITTSBURGH — The Steelers added some insurance by bringing Blake Martinez and Myles Jack onto the team in the middle of the season. Both were recently retired but are now productive tacklers the team can be comfortable without on the field. Of course, each player has different limitations, and Mykal Walker, recently named starter, seems in line to keep that job.
But what Martinez and Jack can do is give Pittsburgh security. Yes, part of it is to add natural depth to a room with all of that slash, but more than anything, the Steelers will not be caught without a plan if more injuries hit them at the inside linebacker spot. They have already lost two players for the season in that room, and if something were to happen again, they want to be as prepared as possible.
“There you go, veteran presence,” defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said about the linebackers. “That’s exactly what they add. We know those guys. They’re high-volume tacklers. If we have — knock on wood –another catastrophic injury, we’ll have a veteran guy that we know can go in there and play and give us some depth.”
Both players came out of retirement at different points this season. Pittsburgh coaxed Jack to do that. Martinez got persuaded by Carolina after an injury to Shaq Thompson.
Jack lasted just a few weeks with the Eagles, when he decided to retire from football on Aug. 20. When he did so, the Eagles put him on the reserve/retired list, retaining his rights. They decided to release him on Thursday, putting him through waivers. With Jack cleared, he is eligible to sign with any team. He said the passion for football faded for him there, but he feels like Pittsburgh is a ‘true love’ for him. There are no hard feelings after his release, either.
“I understand it’s a business and things happen,” Jack said. “You can’t get emotional or anything about it. It’s what happens and goes. But it’s true love they brought me back.”
Jack, 28, played in 15 games and made 13 starts for the Steelers last year. He led the Steelers in tackles with 104 last season, and also had three tackles for loss, three passes defended and one quarterback hit. He lacked the splash play element that this unit seems to have recaptured this year.
Over Martinez’s career, he has four 100 or more tackle seasons, and 706 career tackles. His last came in 2020 with the Giants, where Martinez posted 151 tackles, but he has played just seven games in the previous two years with the Giants and Raiders. A 2016 fourth-round pick out of Stanford, Martinez had productive years for the Packers, too, and boasts 78 games of starting experience in his entire career.
Martinez is a downhill thumper, while Jack made his bread as an athletic sideline-to-sideline player. That is where they naturally differ in their styles. That’s intentional, too. Pittsburgh wants to make sure they have all their bases covered in the case of further injuries, and they have done just that.