The Steelers earned a close victory in Week 10, but it came at the expense of another significant injury on the defensive side of the ball. Linebacker Kwon Alexander suffered a torn Achilles on Sunday, as first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
As a result of the injury, Alexander will be out for the remainder of the season. That news is especially significant given the fact fellow linebacker Cole Holcomb suffered a knee injury in Week 9 which required season-ending surgery. The pair comprised two-thirds of Pittsburgh’s three-man rotation at the LB spot, so their absences will be acutely felt for the second half of the campaign.
One of several new faces in the Steelers’ front seven, Alexander signed a one-year deal worth the veteran’s minimum in late July. That pact didn’t come with any guarantees with respect to playing time, but the 29-year-old provided at least an experienced depth option. Alexander had logged a 61% snap share heading into Week 10, a figure much higher than last year’s during his time with the Jets and one which was in line to increase with Holcomb no longer in the fold.
With Alexander out for the remainder of the year, Pittsburgh will be forced to turn elsewhere at their second inside linebacker spot. Currently, with Holcomb and Chapelle Russell on IR, and Alexander soon to join them, last year’s seventh-round pick out of Ole Miss, Mark Robinson, is the only inside backer on the active roster left to line up next to Elandon Roberts. Robinson spent most of his rookie season inactive before starting the final two games of the year. So far in his sophomore campaign, Robinson has played in every contest, mostly on special teams.
The only other player in the building designated as an inside linebacker on the team’s depth chart is former Packers seventh-round safety Tariq Carpenter. Pittsburgh signed Carpenter to their practice squad when he failed to make Green Bay’s 53-man roster in August and converted him to inside backer. He appeared in 14 games as a rookie last year, playing almost exclusively on special teams.
With so many injuries at linebacker, the Steelers will certainly be pressed to do something. One solution may be converting another safety or an outside linebacker to fill in at the position. Otherwise, Pittsburgh will likely be combing the free agent options for some possible depth or experience to supplement their current beleaguered group.
Contributions provided by Ely Allen