It’s the end of week one of free agency, and the Steelers have made moves regarding the offensive line, defensive line, secondary, and, most eye-opening, middle linebacker.
Entering free agency, the Steelers had to sign someone from a stacked ILB free-agency group. As expected, most of the big names went early and signed solid deals.
Steelers signed former Commanders middle linebacker Cole Holcomb to a three year, $18M contract on Wednesday.
The next day, the Steelers signed former Patriots and Dolphins linebacker Elandon Roberts to a 2-year deal. Not long after, the Steelers cut Myles Jack, saving $8M in cap space.
The Steelers completely revamped their middle linebacker room, and the only player returning from last year’s core is Mark Robinson.
The question is: Did the Steelers improve the middle linebacker position?
Simple answer: YES!
Steelers had a simple motive, FIX THE RUN DEFENSE.
Last year’s trio of Myles Jack, Devin Bush, and Robert Spillane just didn’t cut it, and more time than we’d like to admit, they were being bullied in the ground game.
This is where the signings of Holcomb and Roberts come into play. These two are tackling machines and are ruthless in the run defense.
Due to injuries, Cole Holcomb was a perfect fill-in for the Commanders and even got the green dot to lead the front seven for Washington. He’s a downhill shooter and loves to get physical.
The same thing can be said for Elandon Roberts. He’s a complete mirror of Vince Williams. He’s a bully in the run defense and is coming off a career year with ten tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Those two stats are a big reason for his path to Pittsburgh.
The Steelers aren’t done addressing the position.
Although Holcomb and Roberts are upgrading, this doesn’t erase middle linebacker from being selected early in the NFL Draft. Steelers still plan to draft a future centerpiece that ideally has all the traits, including coverage upside.
Holcomb and Roberts were signed to help the run defense. Not for pass coverage. It’d be Robert Spillane, Vince Williams, and Lawrence Timmons all over again.
Middle linebacker is stacked early this draft class, so the Steelers should strike with a nice one with how many early picks they have.
Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts might be the day-one starter, but I don’t expect that to last long. Perhaps the rookie shows out early and starts alongside Holcomb, and Roberts plays the rotational piece to come and stop the run.
Either way, it goes; I’m happy the Steelers addressed middle linebacker, and it is undoubtedly better than last year’s group.
With a rookie added and a 2nd year of Mark Robinson learning from the leadership and experience of Holcomb and Roberts, there should be a lot to like here.
The upgrades aren’t very drastic, nor does it sound crazy. Steelers could’ve done more to add a better piece earlier into free agency, but with what we got, you can’t be mad about it and can only get excited with how stronger the run defense just got.
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