If you thought that the Pittsburgh Steelers weren't serious about making changes under the new direction of Omar Khan, guess again. In his first full offseason as general manager in 2023, the Steelers completely overhauled the inside linebacker position -- ditching veterans Myles Jack, Devin Bush, and Robert Spillane and replacing them with new blood.
Pittsburgh added former team captains like Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts while finding a pair of specials teams aces in Tanner Muse and long-time NFL linebacker, Nick Kwiatkowski. While none of these players were the top guys on the market at the position, Pittsburgh identified that they need a change at the position. Apparently, they weren't done yet.
The Steelers had expressed an interest in acquiring Alexander over two months ago, but he ultimately left the facility without a contract. Now it appears that Pittsburgh is comfortable with his health and they want him to help improve the defense in 2023.
What are the Steelers getting with Kwon Alexander?
At this stage in his career, Kwon Alexander is a long way removed from the Pro Bowl linebacker for the Buccaneers we saw all the way back in 2017. Though he appeared in all 17 games with the New York Jets in 2022, the results were only so-so.
Last year, Alexander recorded 69 tackles, 6 tackles for a loss, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery in 12 starts (559 total defensive snaps), per Pro Football Reference. His modest production was backed up by his pedestrian grade. Alexander earned an overall grade of just 63.0 last year, according to Pro Football Focus. This ranked 44th among 81 qualifying linebackers.
Remarkably, this was his highest grade since his Pro Bowl season in 2017. Alexander has dealt with several season-ending injuries over the past five years (which certainly played a factor), including an ACL tear. The veteran linebacker will be 29 years old for the 2023 season, and he clearly has limitations at this stage of his career.
Alexander becomes the fifth free agent linebacker the Steelers have signed during the 2023 offseason, and it will be interesting to see what his role will be. Of this new-look group, Holcomb still projects as the three-down linebacker -- ideally suited for the 'Mack' role. Meanwhile, Elandon Roberts could be their enforcer at the 'Buck' position.
At this point, Alexander may be a sub-package linebacker who can work in space. Knowing that this team will keep no more than five at the position, it will be interesting to see who the odd man out will be between Mark Robinson, Tanner Muse, and Nick Kwiatkowski. Each of the players near the bottom of the depth chart has different skill sets and it could come down to a matter of preference at the position.
For now, temper expectations for Kwon Alexander. Though he was once a big name at the position, this very much feels like the Keanu Neal signing -- a player who we all would have been ecstatic about years ago, but doesn't have the same luster anymore. Whatever Alexander offers Pittsburgh's defense should be considered a bonus at this point. Let's hope he's at least got one more year left in the tank.