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Steelers Shakeup Linebacker Rotation with Upstart Veteran



Steelers ILB Blake Martinez
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Blake Martinez in a game against the New England Patriots on Dec. 8, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers are giving linebacker Blake Martinez more playing time this week with Elandon Roberts sidelined with a pec injury. Martinez has only played in one game against the Patriots, and was not a starter, but he very well could earn that this week.

Roberts suffered a pectoral injury in the second quarter of his team’s 34-11 win over the Cincinnati Bengals and was quickly ruled out of returning to that game. Tomlin said on Tuesday that he will not play this week against the Seahawks, but stopped short of ruling him out for the remainder of the season, which could be a positive sign.

Martinez would fit into Roberts’ thumper role in the middle of the defense. With others like Mykal Walker and Myles Jack expected to have key roles, too, Martinez should see his role next to those guys as a critical one with Kenneth Walker a dangerous part of the attack for Seattle.

“We’ll probably give Blake Martinez another opportunity this week,” head coach Mike Tomlin said. “With Elandon being in the state that he’s in, but Blake’s been in the stadium with us before and been here a while now. So, probably less troublesome than it was last time he was called upon, for example.”

Cole Holcomb and Kwon Alexander are both out for the season in addition to Roberts, but when the two of them went down with season-ending injuries in Weeks 8 and 9, Roberts became a full-time starter and dragged a rotating cast of characters along with him at the position. Martinez, Jack, and Walker will now be the full-time cast with Roberts injured.

Martinez was recently un-retired after retiring last November, and he joined the Panthers’ practice squad after a tryout on November 6th. Martinez has played all over the NFL, but he spent his most productive years in New York with the Giants and in Green Bay with the Packers. He is a hammer to the nail, and very similar to Roberts stylistically.

Over his 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.