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Veteran Linebacker Could Shakeup Steelers LB Rotation

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Steelers LB Blake Martinez
Steelers LB Blake Martinez at his first practice with the team, Nov. 22, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers signed veteran linebacker Blake Martinez as insurance in the case of injury. But as he continues to ramp up, it becomes more possible that Martinez could see some role within Pittsburgh’s linebacker rotation that just consists of Elandon Roberts and Mykal Walker.

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.

He was the second inside linebacker that they added last week, along with Myles Jack returning to the team’s practice squad. Walker signed to Pittsburgh’s practice squad in October and started against the Browns, racking up four tackles in impressive fashion. He followed that up with another strong performance against the Bengals, meaning he could have his spot entrenched form here on out.

The Steelers seem comfortable with Walker and Roberts but are building out their room in case more injuries occur. Pittsburgh still has Tariq Carpenter and Jack on the practice squad. Mark Robinson has not seen much of a role, and Martinez is still learning the defense. But defensive coordinator Teryl Austin did not close the door on Martinez having a role in the future.

“Yes, we’ll continue to bring him along,” Austin said. “We’ll continue to see where he may fit in with us. I’m assuming — and I think that at some point he’ll have a hat on, and he’ll have an opportunity to help us. What that is right now or this week, I’m not sure.”

That means Martinez is likely coming to the Steelers in a backup capacity, but he has impressed in recent years with tackle numbers. Could it turn the inside linebacker room into a three-man rotation? That seems like something that could be possible, especially with how productive Martinez has been over his career.

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.

With Martinez now back in the NFL and the fold for Pittsburgh, he will likely be asked to do plenty of special teams work while Walker and Roberts start at linebacker. Robinson still holds that in the fold, and Carpenter is out of practice squad elevations. So, something will have to happen soon enough.