On Monday, OLB Alex Highsmith spoke the media and was asked about the defensive rookies that played important roles for the Steelers last night against the Ravens. Highsmith responded commending DL DeMarvin Leal for providing Pittsburgh another big body upfront but appreciated the patience ILB Mark Robinson had waiting for his moment last night and capitalizing when he got the opportunity to play.
“Oh my gosh, yeah, both of ’em came in, provided some valuable plays for us,” Highsmith said to the media Monday in the locker room on video at Steelers.com. “DeMarvin just being in there and providing an extra big body to be able to stop the run and, Mark [Robinson]’s been itching and waiting to hit all year. And so, I think one of the first two plays he made a tackle. He was just like talking crazy, but it’s like he’s been waiting for that all year. So just seeing him be able to get out there and lay some hits was awesome.”
DeMarvin Leal logged 27 defensive snaps (52%) last night in Baltimore while Mark Robinson 26 defensive snaps (50%) in his largest exposure of the season to-date. For context, Myles Jack logged only six defensive snaps as he continued to deal with a groin issue and would eventually leave the game after aggravating the ailment. Despite being healthy, Devin Bush logged only five defensive snaps last night, appearing to get benched in favor of Robinson and Robert Spillane who managed to help Pittsburgh stop the run in the second half.
Yinz have been clamoring for Robinson to get on the field for months after the rookie seventh-round pick out of Ole Miss showed promise as a physical run defender in the preseason, something the Steelers have sorely needed at times this season. While Bush has played better than last year, he hasn’t come close to meeting the bar of expectations set upon him as a former top ten selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. Meanwhile, Robinson represented himself well last night in a must-win game against the Ravens, making seven combined tackles (two solo) while getting in on the action as a physical presence against the run.
HC Mike Tomlin sang Robinson’s praises in his post-game press conference, commending him for steeping up when called upon in a crucial game to bring that aggressive play style needed in a Steelers/Ravens rivalry game. Last time Pittsburgh played Baltimore, they were beaten on both sides of the football, being unable to stop the run game while having their rushing attack falter. This time around, Pittsburgh got the edge on their division rival, rushing for nearly 200 yards on the game while neutralizing the Ravens’ running game in the second half.
Robinson still has plenty of development needed to become a quality starting ILB, but the initial returns from last night are encouraging for a player that wasn’t guaranteed a roster spot to start the season. Give credit to Robinson for biding his time all year and stepping up in primetime when Pittsburgh needed him the most as they look to make an improbable playoff push in the final week of the season.