Steelers Urged to Poach Former $30 Million Starting Linebacker From Panthers

Mike Tomlin

Getty The Bleacher Report NFL staff argued that Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers should sign linebacker Blake Martinez.

The Pittsburgh Steelers suddenly have a major depth issue at linebacker. If it’s not fixed quickly, then it could derail the 6-3 start the team has experienced through 10 weeks.

For that reason, the Bleacher Report NFL staff argued that the Steelers should sign veteran linebacker Blake Martinez off the Carolina Panthers practice squad.

“Blake Martinez is a good downhill run-stopper,” the BR NFL staff wrote. “He might struggle in coverage, but the Steelers don’t have a lot of great options.

“Stealing Martinez from the Panthers’ practice squad might be as good as it gets.”

Martinez retired from the NFL in November 2022, but he returned to the league by signing with the Panthers practice squad on November 6. He is now in his eighth NFL season.

Martinez has previous experience playing for the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants and Las Vegas Raiders. The Giants signed him to a three-year, $30.75 million contract ahead of the 2020 season.

The Steelers have sustained two major injuries at linebacker in the past two games. First, Cole Holcomb suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 9. On November 12, Kwon Alexander tore an Achilles tendon, which will rule him out for the rest of 2023.

How LB Blake Martinez Could Fit With the Steelers

Martinez hasn’t played a game during the 2023 season, but he has plenty of NFL experience from his first seven seasons.

He started his career as a Green Bay fourth-round pick during the 2016 NFL draft. He made the team and started nine games as a rookie. During his second season in 2017, Martinez led the NFL with 144 combined tackles.

That began a run of four consecutive seasons for Martinez where he posted at least 144 combined tackles. He also had more than 85 solos every year from 2017-20.

After four years with the Packers, Martinez signed with the Giants in free agency during 2020. He starred during his first season with the team, registering 151 combined tackles, including 9 tackles for loss, 6 quarterback hits and 3 sacks. Martinez also had 5 pass defenses and an interception.

But in 2021, Martinez suffered a torn ACL during Week 3. He missed all but three games that season, and the Giants released him the following preseason.

Martinez signed with the Raiders practice squad on October 4, 2022. He then joined the active roster three days later, but after playing four games, he announced his retirement.

In 84 NFL games, Martinez has posted 706 combined tackles, 39 tackles for loss, 18 quarterback hits and 13 sacks. He also has 22 pass defenses, 4 interceptions and 4 forced fumbles.

Other Linebacker Fits for the Steelers

As the saying goes, beggars can’t be choosers.

Holcomb and Alexander were Pittsburgh’s top two inside linebackers in terms of snaps prior to their injuries.  Without them, the Steelers will likely ask fellow veteran Elandon Roberts to handle all that he can. Second-year linebacker Mark Robinson will also probably enter the starting lineup.

With Alexander leaving in Week 10, Robinson played a season-high 41 defensive snaps. He had played 4 defensive snaps the entire season before Week 10.

Still, the Steelers need inside linebacker depth, preferably depth with experience. But Martinez may not be the best fit in terms of what he does best.

Martinez is a tackling machine and run stopper. Roberts already fills that role, and if what the Packers did through the air against Pittsburgh in Week 10 is evidence for anything, the Steelers need to add a linebacker better in coverage than against the run.

Veteran linebacker Anthony Barr could be a better fit. The Bleacher Report NFL staff proposed the Steelers adding Barr on November 6 after Holcomb’s injury.

Barr posted a 59.9 coverage grade last season with the Dallas Cowboys according to Pro Football Focus. While that’s not elite, Martinez had a 30.9 PFF coverage grade in a small sample last season.

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