The Pittsburgh Steelers got their third preseason win yesterday against the Detroit Lions, winning by a score of 19-9. Pittsburgh finished the preseason with a perfect 3-0 record, pulling off come from behind victories against the Seahawks and Jaguars and controlled the game for the most part against Detroit throughout the contest.
After coming up with the play of the game in the final moments against the Seahawks with a strip sack and an impressive performance against the Jaguars, rookie LB Mark Robinson was riding a lot of momentum heading into Pittsburgh’s preseason finale against the Lions. He had been the standout on the defensive side of the ball during training camp, showing an aggressive demeanor as a defender that seeks out contact and plays to the whistle on every rep.
After a strong showing in Jacksonville, it was to be expected to see some regression in Robinson’s play. He got caught out of position a couple times Sunday afternoon like on this run here on a stretch run by #42 Justin Jackson. Robinson runs to his gap but slightly over pursues, keeping his eyes in the backfield to see if Jackson will continue his path outside or cut up the hole. Robinson’s hesitation gives the RT enough time to pick him up and get just enough of a piece of him as Jackson turns the corner, just out of reach of the outstretched hands of Robinson who can’t make the play.
Later in the fourth quarter, we see Robinson get exposed a little while in coverage against RB #46 Craig Reynolds who comes out of the backfield and shakes Robinson at the top of his route, catching him slipping as Reynolds breaks to the sideline. Robinson gets on his horse to tray and catch up to the receiver who gets brought down along the sideline by #31 Justin Layne.
Robinson profiled more as a downhill thumper at LB than a savvy coverage specialist coming out of Ole Miss where he has only played the position for one year, thus still needing some seasoning in that area of his game. However, there were several instances where you see his coverage instincts and spacing coming into form like on this rep where he carries the RB up the right sideline on the wheel route. He loses a step of separation when the back breaks back to the ball, but the ball comes in low and results in an incompletion.
Even if Robinson isn’t in position to contest the pass, he is quick to rally to the football and prevent yards gained after the catch. We see that here on this pass short to #85 Tom Kennedy where Robinson immediately breaks on the ball once thrown and drops Kennedy as he catches the ball for a five-yard gain and no YAC.
You see a similar effort here on a pass to the right sideline to Reynolds who lines up wide and catches the curl route, looking to get yards after the catch. #21 Tre Norwood misses the initial tackle attempt, but Robinson gets on his horse in pursuit and tracks down Reynolds as he turns up field, taking him down after a seven-yard pickup.
Robinson may not be the twitchiest linebacker when it comes to sideline-to-sideline pursuit, but he gives all-out effort in chase situations. Here on this play, we watch Reynolds catch a swing pass in the left flat and starts to run toward the sideline. Robinson breaks to the ball, running through the block attempt by the WR who gets called for offensive pass interference and pushes the runner out of bounds after a three-yard gain on the catch.
As far as run defense goes, Robinson does tend to struggle when he gets engaged with bigger blockers due to his smaller stature, causing him to get engulfed by size at times. However, he does show the effort to fight of blocks as fast as possible to make plays in the running game like on this rep where Jackson takes the handoff to the left and cuts back to the right. Robinson spins off the block by the center back to Jackson and propels himself into the runner, failing to wrap up, yet manages team up with Elijah Riley to bring him down.
Here is another example of Robinson spinning off the block attempt by the LT after keeping Reynolds to get to the outside. Reynolds bounces the run inside where Robinson joins with #45 Buddy Johnson to bring him down after a five-yard pickup.
Overall, it wasn’t as flashy of a showing from Mark Robinson in the preseason finale as it was last week against the Jaguars, but he still managed to make a few plays. He did get caught out of position a couple of times and got beat in one-on-one coverage against the back, but these struggles are going to happen for a seventh-round rookie linebacker that previously played running back at Presbyterian before moving to the defensive side of the football in the SEC.
DC Teryl Austin spoke on Robinson yesterday, praising his physicality and effort, but acknowledged that he needs more repetitions at the position before he can see considerable playing time with the first team defense in regular season action. While Robinson sure has flashed thus far in the preseason, taking the long-term approach with their seventh-round rookie may be for the best to ensure he is comfortable in Pittsburgh’s defensive system before throwing him out there to keep his head from spinning.
Regardless, it appears as if Pittsburgh has found something in Robinson. While he may still need some work as he continues to develop into an NFL-caliber inside linebacker, he should at minimum be a special teams demon to start the 2022 season and could see playing time in a rotation of defense should his progression continue.
What are your thoughts on Mark Robinson and his performance against the Lions? Did you notice a drop off in play compared to the previous weeks or was it in-line with his other preseason performances? Do you think taking the slow track with him is the best thing for the team and his development? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!