In one year, Adrian Robinson has gone from promising young prospect to trade bait as the Pittsburgh Steelers sent him to the Philadelphia Eagles for running back Felix Jones, shifting the seedings of Pittsburgh linebackers battling for roster spots.
Rumors had placed Robinson in the Steelers coaches' doghouse in the early portion of training camp, citing a lack of energy in practices. Recovering a fumble for a touchdown in the team's first preseason game against the New York Giants seemingly corrected those issues, instead it only made him more appealing to other NFL teams needing linebacker help.
With Robinson now gone, the rest of the linebackers move up in the seedings, both at Robinson's outside position, but possibly inside as well.
Originally, Robinson was expected to compete with veteran Chris Carter for the fourth outside linebacker spot, leaving undrafted rookie Alan Baxter on the outside looking in at a practice squad spot, most likely. Now with Robinson out of the picture, the battle has come down to Baxter and Carter for the fourth spot behind current starters LaMarr Woodley, Jason Worilds and first-round draft pick Jarvis Jones.
Robinson's exit also could become good news for the team's excess of inside linebacker talent. Behind starters Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote stands a long line of players who have excelled both in practice and in preseason action.
Stevenson Sylvester is the 'eldest' veteran of the group, after being drafted by the Steelers in 2010, but the team declined to offer him a restricted free-agency tender, later signing him to a much cheaper veteran minimum contract. The team added rookie Vince Williams in this year's draft, and Marshall McFadden returned for his second season with the Steelers to rave reviews.
The Steelers also added a few veterans and undrafted talents in Brian Rolle, Kion Wilson and Terence Garvin. Rolle was the most statistically productive of the group in the team's first preseason game, although all have stood out at one point or another.
Sylvester has taken snaps inside and outside this off-season, and continues to look like a utility infielder for Pittsburgh's football team. His name could also become part of the outside battle with Carter and Baxter, opening up an interior spot for someone else. Sylvester's flexibility could give him an edge over Baxter and Carter, a similar asset Brandon Johnson used to maintain a roster spot with the Steelers last season.
Baxter has been impressive in camp, especially with his explosiveness coming off the edge, but he is the only outside linebacker with practice squad eligibility remaining, thus diminishing his chances of making the roster as an undrafted rookie.
The remaining linebackers will be under a microscope for the remainder of the preseason as positional battles continue to shake out, their next stop being the Saturday night contest against the Kansas City Chiefs.
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