After Kwon Alexander went down on Pittsburgh’s first defensive drive in Week 10 against the Green Bay Packers, communication was an issue for the Steelers’ defense. The team is expected to bring Mykal Walker up from the practice squad ahead of Week 11 against the Cleveland Browns, and one area where Walker has impressed his teammates is his communication ability. Both OLB T.J. Watt and DL Cameron Heyward talked about what Walker adds to the team and talked about the need for communication to be good this week against Cleveland.
“A guy that’s came in, he’s being as vocal as possible for a guy that’s just new to the system, but he’s been flashing, making good plays, a guy that’s sideline-to-sideline. I’m excited,” Watt said via Steelers.com.
Walker said he’s been splitting the Green Dot in practice this week with Elandon Roberts, but Roberts is likely to have it on Sunday. Roberts wore it after Alexander went down, and given that he’s been with the team and in the league longer and has more experience with the system, that’s a decision that makes sense.
After the communication issues against Green Bay, Heyward emphasized the need for it to be better this week and said it’s something Walker’s been working on.
“He’s been great. Just trying to understand the playbook, trying to be extra loud on communication,” Heyward said, also from Steelers.com.
He added that between Walker, Roberts, who he called “great” for Walker, and Mark Robinson, the communication on the road needs to be tight.
“Between those three guys, we just have to continue to keep communication. We’re leaving them with the front end and the back end, and I know we haven’t been on the road in a while, so it’s a different factor and we have to be a little bit more keen on that.”
It’s not going to be an easy environment for the Steelers to communicate, as Cleveland Browns Stadium is sure to be raucous as the Browns are looking to move to 7-3 and get a game up on Pittsburgh in the AFC North standings. It’s going to be imperative that the Steelers keep their communication tight and now allow the mishaps they did against the Packers, particularly on weighty downs.
Walker is going to be a key part of the inside linebacker rotation, and even if he isn’t wearing the Green Dot, he’s going to need to step up and be an active communicator even though he’s newer to the team. The trio of Roberts, Robinson, and Walker is going to be key against a Browns team that likes to run the ball, and being able to cover running backs and tight ends will be essential with the Browns starting a rookie under center in Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
Walker could also help earn himself a bigger role with a good performance on Sunday, and surely he’s looking for another opportunity to stick in the NFL. Walker was released this preseason after three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, and Sunday is a prime opportunity to prove his worth to the Steelers and earn a role in their depleted inside linebacker corps.