Getty Pittsburgh Steelers pass rusher TJ Watt shared his thoughts on veteran inside linebacker Elandon Roberts.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have major concerns at inside linebacker with Cole Holcomb and Kwon Alexander out for the remainder of the season. But one thing is for sure: Former Steelers Defensive Player of the Year TJ Watt is confident in what veteran Elandon Roberts will bring to the team’s inside linebacker corps.
Watt gushed about Roberts when he appeared as a guest on the latest episode of Green Light with Chris Long on November 13th.
“Roberts is an incredible player. I think he’s been doing this for a long time and he’s just a soft-spoken guy,” Watt told Long. “He knows exactly what he has to do out there. He’s a real thumper, he takes a lot of pride in his work.”
Roberts signed a two-year, $7 million contract to join the Steelers last offseason. Pittsburgh also signed Holcomb and Alexander as free agents, but both suffered season-ending injuries in the first half of November.
Roberts started in the NFL as a sixth-round pick for the New England Patriots during the 2016 NFL Draft and has totaled 56 tackles, including 6 tackles for a loss with the Steelers in 2023. He also has 4 quarterback hits, 1, 5 sacks and 1 pass defense.
The Steelers’ Elandon Roberts sets the tone for the defense
Holcomb and Alexander played more snaps than Roberts through the first 10 weeks of the season. But Roberts has started eight of the team’s nine games.
Additionally, Watt emphasized during his podcast guest appearance that it was Roberts who set the tone for the Steelers defense.
“Here in the season it’s like a Wednesday or even like a Thursday and it’s like we don’t have any pads on so we just calm down,” Watt said of Roberts’ physicality in practice. “But it sets the tone – it really does.
“And it’s all that old-school football. I mean, in the AFC North – even in a game like this week – you need a guy like that.”
The Steelers will face the Cleveland Browns in a crucial AFC North showdown on November 19th. Watt shared that Roberts is able to set the tone without saying much in important matchups like the one the team faces in Week 11.
“Kwon [Alexander] “It was a guy who was very energetic, very vocal, and ‘E-Rob’ is more of a quiet guy, but he can send messages through the way he plays,” Watt said.
Long, who was a teammate of Roberts in New England in 2016, told a similar training story from Roberts’ rookie season.
“It was like one of those tackle drills where we’re just getting ready for each other and he caught me right on the butt and I went to Matt Patricia and said, ‘I don’t think I’m any good, bro.’ “Elandon Roberts is the best hitter there is in this game,” Long said.
Roberts recorded a career-high 107 combined tackles last season with the Miami Dolphins. He is on track to get very close to that mark again in 2023.
Steelers lean on Roberts at inside linebacker
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made it clear that the team had no plans to sign another inside linebacker. That means the responsibility for replacing Holcomb and Alexander will largely fall on Roberts.
“We’re going to rely on Elandon Roberts,” Tomlin told reporters on Nov. 14. “That’s why we brought him here. He’s a defensive quarterback in mentality. He’s a really good communicator, a really good player above the neck. Really does a good job in these areas.
“We didn’t use him in some situations or possession situations. “Could expand its role in some of these areas in favor of communication and fluid flow.”
Roberts is at his best in run defense. But the Steelers will likely use him in passing situations in the future.
Fellow inside linebacker Mark Robinson is also expected to play more. Tomlin said Robinson is “at the forefront” of taking on an expanded role in the second half of 2023.
The Steelers also have inside linebackers Mykal Walker and Tariq Carpenter on their practice squad. Both could play in Week 11.
Dave Holcomb is a sports reporter who covers the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions for Heavy.com. Originally from Pittsburgh, Holcomb has covered college and professional sports for media outlets such as Fansided, Rotowire and Yardbarker. More about Dave Holcomb
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