PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – Coming off a season where he finished with 107 tackles and started 12 games and still on a rookie contract, Mykal Walker said he never could have envisioned months later bouncing around with four teams. Sunday the linebacker will return to the league, likely as a starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Walker was added to the active roster with Pat Freiermuth (off Injured Reserve). Safety Trenton Thompson and linebacker Tariq Carpenter elevated from the practice squad with Keanu Neal placed on injured reserve with a ribs injury.
“I was on the couch for 9 weeks,” Walker said. “Even this team didn’t pick me up. Now it’s time to prove people wrong and let them know who I am.”
The 6’3”, 230-pound linebacker has been on the Steelers practice squad for a couple of weeks after being released by Atlanta, Chicago and Las Vegas. This was after a 107-tackle season in 2022.
Walker said he’s ready to explode with energy. He feels good, he’s been getting extra meeting time with linebackers coach Aaron Curry, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and defensive backs coach Grady Brown. He says he feels really good and comfortable and ready to play.
“I can’t wait to show you on Sunday,” Walker said. “I can’t wait to go out there on Sunday to show these fans and everyone I’m still here.”
He’s been working as a pair with Elandon Roberts. The only veteran middle linebacker left after Cole Holcomb and Kwon Alexander suffered season-ending injuries. Walker said they play off each other well with Roberts physicality and his athleticism. He thinks it’s a good fit between the two as Walker is known more for his coverage skills. Walker said the two have split duties in calling plays, although he expects Roberts to do so against Cleveland.
“He’s been great,” said Steelers defensive captain Cam Heyward. “Just trying to understand the playbook. Trying to be extra loud on communication. Having a guy like Elandon Roberts is huge for him. Mark Robinson got playing time last year, but between those three, we have to continue to keep communication.”
“A guy that’s come in and being as vocal as possible for a guy that’s new to the system,” said Steelers defensive captain TJ Watt. “He’s been flashing and making good plays. A guy that’s sideline-to-sideline, I’m excited.”
“I haven’t played all year,” Walker said. “So no matter what the challenge was, I was ready for my opportunity. In this business, when your opportunity gets called, there are no excuses. You got to go. You’ve got to be ready. I’m ready to go.”
If he doesn’t start, Trenton Thompson should get some run at safety Sunday in Cleveland. It’s been a reunion of sorts for Thompson as he was a college teammate with Steelers safety Damontae Kazee for a year at San Diego State.
Teammates was probably the extent of it, Kazee was a redshirt senior and Thompson, a freshmen. He said Kazee never talked to him then and treated him as a kid. They are good now and laugh about those moments. Communication will be huge between those two going forward.
Thompson was a second and third team All-American in 2021, his final season with the Aztecs. At 6’2”, 200 pounds, he’s known for his hard-hitting and said he’s pretty good at covering and will get the job done.
“I view it as just go out and do my job and not make it bigger than it is,” Thompson said. “Just play football. If I go out there overthinking, I’m going to have a bad game. I don’t plan on doing that.”