The Steelers are now in their offseason after failing to reach the playoffs in 2022, coming up just a game short of sneaking in as the seventh seed. They needed help in week 18 and only got some of it, so instead they sat home and watched the playoffs with the rest of us.
On tap is figuring out how to be on the field in January and February instead of being a spectator. They started out 2-6, digging a hole that proved too deep to dig out of even if they managed to go 7-2 in the second half of the year.
Starting from the end of the regular season and leading all the way up to the beginning of the 2023 season, there are plenty of questions that need answered, starting with who will be the offensive coordinator. Which free agents will be kept? Who might be let go due to their salary? How might they tackle free agency with this new front office? We’ll try to frame the conversation in relevant ways as long as you stick with us throughout this offseason, as we have for many years.
Question: Will Elandon Roberts be a starter for the Steelers?
Whether they liked him or not, the Steelers evidently decided that Myles Jack was not worth the $8 million he was due in 2023. They moved on and signed Cole Holcomb to be their new green dot—with Robert Spillane also on his way elsewhere.
But they also signed Elandon Roberts. Though he has some starting experience, he tends to be used more situationally while being rotated out of the lineup. The problem is, the Steelers may well also view Mark Robinson as the same type of player—an early-downs defender.
Roberts has a few thousand snaps’ worth of NFL experience playing defense in different systems, so he shouldn’t have any difficulty assimilating to Pittsburgh’s schemes. And the Steelers haven’t shied away in the past from turning occasional starters to low-level full-time starters on modest deals that may turn out to be more.
Perhaps they consider him some insurance for Robinson if the young linebacker doesn’t develop like they hope he might. There are no guarantees that he will, of course. He’s still learning how to play linebacker, and the odds of him getting the hang of coverage are low.
The early portions of the season may most likely see Roberts in the starting lineup with a dime defense deployed heavily that gets him off the field. What that dime looks like will depend on how they address safety. Damontae Kazee would be the extra defender unless he’s starting at strong safety. If not, it could be Tre Norwood or Arthur Maulet.
One thing you can say about Roberts is that he embraces his role. The degree to which he executes it successfully varies, but he will be more than eager to take on a pulling guard or work off a tight end’s block at the second level to make a tackle.