If the Pittsburgh Steelers had a defensive training camp darling, that award would go to rookie LB Mark Robinson in a landslide. The seventh-round pick out of Ole Miss was considered a likely long shot to make the team coming into training camp as primarily a downhill thumper in the run game with flaws in coverage as only a one-year player at the position, having previously played running back a Presbyterian before transferring to Oxford and switching to the defense side of the ball.
However, Robinson made his impact known in a hurry on the football field, sticking out early in training camp and then showing glimpses of what he could do in Pittsburgh’s first preseason game against Seattle before having his coming out party in Jacksonville. Robinson played like a heat-seeking missile in that game, racking up tackles against the run while also making coverage drops and putting pressure on the quarterback as a pass rusher.
Still, when DC Teryl Austin was asked why he previously mentioned three inside linebackers that he feels comfortable playing right now in reference to Myles Jack, Devin Bush, and Robert Spillane without including Robinson in that group, Austin pointed to continued development as the main thing holding Robinson back from seeing playing time early in Pittsburgh’s defense in 2022.
“Well, I think as a young guy, the biggest thing that happens with those guys is they have a lot of want to, but they don’t have a lot of skill in repetition that their position to be effective in this league,” Austin said to the media on video from Steelers.com. “And so, until he gets all of that, he’ll continue to develop on special teams and doing some stuff like that. But I think that’s really it’ It’s just going to be repetitions and getting skill development at his position and really learning his position and how it’s played here in the NFL.”
This isn’t exactly what Steelers fans want to hear from Austin about their fan favorite at inside linebacker, but Austin does have a point. Robinson has only played the LB position for one season in college before making the jump to the pros. Therefore, he is still new to the intricacies of the position when it comes to zone drops, reading keys, and making checks at the LOS. While Robinson had strong performances in Pittsburgh’s first two preseason games, he was caught more out of position in the preseason finale, making more notable mistakes in coverage and in missed tackles.
Just like the situation going on at QB for the Steelers, often the rookie must be head and heels better than the veterans above him on the depth chart to seize the starting job. Robinson has stood out more than Bush and Spillane to this point in preseason play, but the coaching staff is going to side with proven production over the potential, yet raw play Robinson has shown thus far. Still, the coaching staff is excited in the young man the managed to get at the end of the draft and the demeanor that he plays with to and through the whistle.
“Absolutely,” Austin said on Robinson and his aggression on the football field. “Mike always says, ‘I’d rather say woah than sick ‘em’, and he’s got a lot of sick ’em.”