Much has been made in recent months about the upside that Pittsburgh Steelers’ seventh-round rookie linebacker Mark Robinson carries, having made the switch from running back to linebacker, resulting in him being drafted less than a year later by the black and gold.
It’s a common switch in football at all levels, as there’s similar traits that stand out among running backs and linebackers, that being lateral quickness, vision, and explosion downhill. Robinson seems to have those traits in abundance at the moment, which made his transition from running back to linebacker a successful one to this point.
Robison was previously a running back at Presbyterian College in South Carolina, but after the school dropped football scholarships he transferred to Southeastern Missouri, before then ultimately transferring to Ole Miss to play for Lane Kiffin, aiming to be a running back in Kiffin’s high-octane offensive attack.
Forced to sit out a season following his transfer to the Rebels, Robinson then made the switch to linebacker at the insistence of his coaches. After a bit of resistance on his part, not wanting to give up the dream of being a Hall of Fame running back he said, he made the switch and flourished in Oxford, recording 91 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 3.0 sacks as the Rebels went 10-3 and finished 11th in the final AP poll of the year.
That move ended up changing his life, resulting in him being his NFL dream come to fruition after being drafted by the Steelers. Now, he’s embracing the change full-time and is looking to leave his mark on the position in the Steel City like those that have come before him.
Speaking with Steelers.com’s Teresa Varley for a recent interview, Robinson talked about the switch and what he’s aiming to accomplish with it now that he’s in the pros.
“I love linebacker. For me it was a confident switch, a good switch. It’s fun. I look forward to it,” Robinson said to Varley, according to an article via Steelers.com. “I love being on defense, hitting guys. I want to run around, play physical. They are going to know when I am out there. I am an energetic guy, and I am going to lurk and play ball.”
Robinson has a tough road ahead of him in hopes of making the 53-man roster with the Steelers out of camp, especially with names like Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen, Ulysses Gilbert III and Buddy Johnson ahead of him on the depth chart behind starters Devin Bush and Myles Jack at inside linebacker. Still, there’s a path there for Robinson.
If he plays with energy each and every day, makes an impact on special teams and really flies around and lays the lumber to players like one Vince Williams once did, it will be very hard for GM Omar Khan, head coach Mike Tomlin, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin or even special teams coordinator Danny Smith to cut him loose and get him on the practice squad.
Robinson’s tape from Ole Miss is littered with big hits and explosive plays overall, as well as high-energy, high-effort plays throughout. He might still be relatively raw at the position overall, but you can’t teach heart and hustle. That’s where Robinson will have to make a mark while the rest of his game catches up to his new position.