The Pittsburgh Steelers have often been regarded as one of the most physical teams in the NFL. Given that reputation, one of Pittsburgh’s newest linebackers wanted to make it clear that he’ll fit right in.
Newly signed linebacker Elandon Roberts talked about his physicality and his role with the Steelers shortly after he agreed to his two-year, $7 million contract.
“I don’t feel like it’s any secret. I’m a physical linebacker,” Roberts told the media on March 20 after the team officially announced his signing. “That’s just me. Going into my eighth year, I think people know I’m a physical, downhill guy who likes to hit.
“I feel Pittsburgh’s style fits me.”
Roberts had one of his most physical seasons yet last season for the Miami Dolphins when he posted 107 combined tackles, including 10 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks. All of those statistics were new career highs.
How Roberts Fits Steelers New ‘Old’ Style
The Steelers made a switch in philosophy at inside linebacker of sorts when they drafted Ryan Shazier in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft.
While Shazier was physical, his best attribute was his speed. When Shazier’s career ended the Steelers quickly found his replacement by trading up in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft to select Devin Bush, who was another speedy linebacker expected to excel in coverage.
Roberts will be a flashback of sorts for Steelers fans — a linebacker more similar to James Farrior or Lawrence Timmons than Shazier and Bush.
Steelers Depot’s Josh Carney compared Roberts to a more contemporary Steelers linebacker.
“It’s been a little while since the Steelers had a true, downhill presence at the BUCK position,” Carney wrote. “Vince Williams was that guy for a long, long time, but the Steelers moved on from him, brought him back, and then he ultimately retired.
“It’s been two seasons since Williams has been on the field, but good news is the Steelers are getting someone very similar in Roberts.”
In seven NFL seasons, Roberts has posted 457 combined tackles, including 39 tackles for loss, 26 quarterback hits, 11 sacks, 10 pass defenses and 1 interception.
Roberts’ Admiration for Coach Mike Tomlin
Roberts will play his first game for the Steelers to open his eighth season in the league. Because of his love for coach Mike Tomlin, if it were up to Roberts, he would have arrived in Pittsburgh much sooner.
“I’ve always admired coach Mike,” Roberts said. “I told him at my pro day seven years ago, ‘Come get me.’
“As soon as we talked, I told him, ‘Man, it’s been seven years, huh?’ God has his time for everything. I’m just ecstatic to be part of the organization.”
Instead of Pittsburgh, Roberts joined the New England Patriots as a sixth-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft. Roberts helped the Patriots win three AFC Championships and two Super Bowl titles in his first three seasons.
Roberts was a regular contributor but not a regular starter in New England. But the past three seasons, Roberts started 43 contests for the Dolphins. Again, he’s coming off the best statistical season of his career in 2022.
In addition to Roberts, the Steelers also signed linebacker Cole Holcomb in NFL free agency. Meanwhile, Bush, along with Robert Spillane, left in free agency. The Steelers also cut veteran linebacker Myles Jack.
With the arrival of Roberts and Holcomb, the Steelers will feature two physical inside linebackers in their defense next season.