The Pittsburgh Steelers have lost two inside linebackers in free agency and released another and added two new pieces to the puzzle from the open market. Another inside linebacker remains a free agent, leaving only 2022 seventh-round draft pick Mark Robinson as the sole carry-over from last season’s roster.
The new group is looking forward to getting together and getting started in figuring out what this will all look like. One of the new signees, veteran Elandon Roberts, talked about having run into Robinson at the facility, and having also spoken to Cole Holcomb, the other free agent acquisition.
“We just talked a little bit”, he said about his early connections with his fellow linebackers, expressing that they are all “excited” and “can’t wait” to get to know and work with one another, via the team’s website, from his Zoom press conference yesterday.
A 2016 sixth-round pick of the New England Patriots, Roberts has carved out a carer for himself as an early-down thumper, something he made no bones about in his first comments to the Pittsburgh media, saying, “I don’t feel like it’s any secret”.
Holcomb was drafted in the fifth round in 2019 by the Washington Commanders and has been a full-time starter for most of his career, logging 99 percent of the team’s defensive snaps when healthy over the past two seasons. He was limited to only seven games a year ago due to injury.
Robinson returns for a second season after dressing for just five games, receiving playing time in four of them. He became a bigger part of the defense in the final two games of the season, facing run-heavy divisional rivals in the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns.
He looked, at times, every bit of a rookie seventh-round pick who only fairly recently was a running back. At other times he showed the velocity at which he is capable of playing. But his primary goal this year should still probably be to get friendlier with special-teams coordinator Danny Smith.
Both Roberts and Holcomb bring a lot of experience to the table, and one would imagine that they will be the starters barring a significant draft investment at the position. All of last season’s top three players at the position are now gone.
The first to sign was Robert Spillane, who got a two-year, $7 million contract from the Las Vegas Raiders, which could rise to $9 million via incentives. Devin Bush more recently signed a one-year, $4 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks. Scheduled to earn $8 million in 2023, Myles Jack was released in a cap savings bid.
Holcomb figures to be the every-down backer who wears the green dot. One suspects that the Steelers would like to run a good amount of dime this season, so they could get Roberts off the field in some obvious passing situations. How Robinson fits into all of this, he will have the opportunity to influence over the course of the offseason by his progression.