The Pittsburgh Steelers find a way to keep winning football games, but their recent run of success isn't coming without a cost. Last week on Thursday Night Football, the Steelers lost starting linebacker Cole Holcomb to a serious knee injury. Their three-down linebacker and top player at the position is done for the season.
One week later, Pittsburgh found a way to stay on top to secure a 23-19 victory over the Green Bay Packers, but for the second straight week, the Steelers lost a key player on their defense. Early in the game, veteran LB Kwon Alexander went down with a potentially serious lower leg injury.
Unfortunately, our worst fears were confirmed. Following the game, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports that it's a ruptured Achilles for Alexander -- effectively ending his 2023 season.
This was a devastating blow to a team that was already razor-thin at linebacker following the loss of Holcomb for the season.
This is the last thing that fans wanted to hear. Despite his age and injury history, Kwon Alexander was having a very solid season in his first year in Pittsburgh. It finally looked like the Steelers were about to fix the linebacker problem they've experienced since the career-ending injury to Ryan Shazier.
Steelers may not be able to overcome season-ending injuries to Kwon Alexander and Cole Holcomb
In the first half of the 2023 season, the combination of Cole Holcomb, Kwon Alexander, and Elandon Roberts looked to be a much-improved trio from that of Myles Jack, Devin Bush, and Robert Spillane from a season ago. Now the hopes of having a strong unit in the middle of the defense are essentially gone.
Unfortunately, Holcomb and Alexander are the only two linebackers the Steelers could trust in coverage on passing downs. Moving forward, Pittsburgh will look to deploy a heavy combination of Roberts and second-year LB Mark Robinson. However, these two linebackers are much better suited coming coming downhill and stopping the run than they are covering in space.
Now that the NFL trade deadline has passed, the pickings are slim and options are limited to improve the Steelers roster at the linebacker position. Pittsburgh will likely look for an option in free agency, but there isn't much to choose from at the halfway mark of the season.
Now their secondary isn't the only positional group on defense with concerning neads. This team is suddenly void of all depth at the off-ball linebacker position, and they will require some strong performances from the next men up in order to weather the storm for the rest of the season (and possibly beyond).
A ruptured Achilles is a serious sports injury that often requires at least a year for a full recovery. It's possible that this could be the end of Kwon Alexander in Pittsburgh. This defense needs help, and the outlook is getting scarier by the minute.