For Steelers linebacker Mykal Walker, the last week has been a roller coaster. Walker has sat on the Steelers practice squad all season, but with the recent season-ending injuries to Cole Holcomb and Kwon Alexander, he’s set not only to get elevated this week but to have a big role against the Cleveland Browns.
Walker has had a large role before, but never for a team that had a real shot at the playoffs. He spent his first three NFL seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, where the team never compiled a record better than 7-10. Walker noted in an interview posted on Steelers.com how different the culture is in Pittsburgh.
“It’s November, it’s a big-time football league. I’ve never been to the playoffs. So for me, this is culture here.” Walker pointed out. “This culture’s winning and it’s demanding of you. So if I go out there this Sunday, and have a great game, I gotta expect the same thing and be better next week. It’s always gonna be about that, just getting better. And Coach [Tomlin] gave a great example, talking about, it’s November, you gotta remember these games.”
According to Defensive Coordinator Teryl Austin at least, Walker will be featured in a three-man ILB rotation on Sunday, including himself, Mark Robinson, and Elandon Roberts.
Walker has a unique blend of youth and experience for a guy you are calling up from the practice squad to say the least. He’s only 26 and was selected in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL draft by the Falcons. He also played 49 of a potential 50 NFL games over his first three seasons, showing that he can be pretty durable. Walker was 3rd on the 2022 Falcons in tackles with 107.
I’m no NFL scout, but it’s a bit of a surprise that no one bit on Walker for a larger role in free agency. He seems like the consummate professional and a guy who can contribute in both the run game and the passing game.
But Walker has finally gotten what he’s always wanted in Pittsburgh this year. A real role, for a team with a real chance. And not only that but he’ll be flanked by guys like T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, who command a lot of attention from the offense. He’s never had that in his NFL career. Walker is already set to earn a lot of snaps and could be in line to get even more with a good performance on Sunday.