clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Is Mark Robinson’s potential enough to contribute in 2022?

With inexperience at the position being a possible concern, does Mark Robinson still bring enough to get into the mix at linebacker for the Steelers this season?

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers Minicamp Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are winding down the 2022 preseason. With a number of new players finding their way with the team, exactly how they fit into the Steelers plans is a big question. One of those players is seventh-round draft pick linebacker Mark Robinson. What has Robinson added to the linebacker room for 2022 despite only playing the position one year in college? This is the subject for this week’s Steelers Vertex.

Let’s get a quick reminder of where this nerdiness is coming from.

Vertex- a single point where two or more lines cross.

Sometimes to make a great point, it takes two different systems of analysis to come together and build off each other in order to drawl a proper conclusion. In this case, the two methods are statistical analysis and film breakdown. Enter Dave Schofield (the stat geek) and Geoffrey Benedict (the film guru) to come together to prove a single point based on our two lines of thinking.

Here comes the breakdown from two different lines of analysis.

The Stats Line:

Sometime stats can look similar from game to game but the way a player performs on the field could be completely different. The first two preseason games of Mark Robinson‘s career fit this mold fairly well. Playing 32 snaps on defense against Seattle followed by 31 against Jacksonville, Robinson had similar stats in the games as he was credited with five tackles in each game. In the first preseason game, Robinson even added a sack along with a forced fumble.

While the statistics suggest Robinson may have had a better outing in his first game, his play on the field does not. In looking at the grades provided by Pro Football Focus (PFF), Robinson scored a 54.0 in his first preseason game but a 79.2 in Week 2. Although if he saw a dip in his score in pass rushing as it went from a 91.2 to a 53.3, Robinson saw vast improvements in run defense from 49.2 to 73.9 and coverage which went from 47.7 to 75.7 in his second game.

So what was Mark Robinson doing in his second game to show so much improvement? Let’s check the film.

The Film Line:

Mark Robinson was getting small amounts of hype from the moment he was drafted. His college film showed a player with a knack for reading and defeating run plays, but he fell to the 7th round because of his inexperience, lower tier athleticism, and because he looked largely clueless in coverage. So how does he look now?

Steelers vs. Jaguars, 3rd quarter, 8:32

Mark Robinson (#93) is the linebacker on the hash marks toward the bottom of the screen.

Robinson does a great job navigating traffic and avoiding blockers to get to the running back. This is fantastic work even if it is against a lot of backups. You have to give credit to James Pierre (#42) for sealing the edge and DeMarvin Leal (#98) credit for getting off a block he initially lost to get back into the play, but Mark Robinson does a fantastic job getting to the ball carrier.

Steelers vs. Jaguars, 3rd quarter, 8:32

Mark Robinson (#93) is the linebacker on the hash marks to the left side of the screen.

This is phenomenal. Robinson doesn’t just beat the pulling tight end to the hole, he breaks through the block and tackles the runner in one motion. You have to love this kind of effort and talent for sniffing out and wrecking run plays.

All the hype for Robinson’s run stuffing ability is backed up by his preseason film. There are clips where blockers get a good grip on him, and just like every other linebacker, he loses those. But more often he shows the ability to evade those blockers and find the ball.

But what about when the other team passes the ball? You don’t make it very long in the current NFL without bringing value against the pass.

Steelers vs. Jaguars, 3rd quarter, 11:25

Mark Robinson (#93) is the linebacker in the middle of the field.

Stopping screen passes is a key part of any linebacker’s job. Mark Robinson shows he can do that. Not only does Robinson get to the play here, he makes the tackle. But what really stands out is how Robinson doesn’t just try to split the blockers, but engages and weaponizes an offensive lineman here, hitting him with good leverage to knock him outside while still colliding with the ball carrier.

Steelers vs. Jaguars, 4th quarter, 1:04

Mark Robinson (#93) is the linebacker near the hash marks toward the bottom of the screen.

This is good processing and movement for Robinson. He widens quickly to cover the vertical route from the slot, but still reads the underneath pass quickly enough to shut it down. There’s also the hit. It’s pretty nice.

When he’s not defending passes by running forward and hitting people, Robinson can get a little lost, but honestly most of his pass cover reps look like this next one.

Steelers vs. Jaguars, 4th quarter, 15:00

Mark Robinson (#93) is the linebacker furthest to the top of the screen (on the 30 yard line).

You can see him hang his head for a second after the play. There’s nothing really to criticize here. He’s initially looking to cover the slot receiver who tries to block the edge rusher, and then seems a bit slow figuring out what to do next. You can tell the moment he realizes the play is designed for the quarterback to get outside the edge rusher. Is this a good play or a bad play? I can’t say it’s either. I think it shows promise for his future and also that he probably isn’t ready right now. . . but that’s reading a whole lot into very little.

There’s also this play:

Steelers vs. Jaguars, 3rd quarter, 0:29

Mark Robinson (#93) is the linebacker in the middle of the field.

What’s he doing here? He steps to his right like he’s in coverage on this play, then takes off like he’s rushing but just runs into his own lineman and falls down. If I had to guess his assignment, it would be the tight end (third from top) and when he stays in to block initially Robinson turns into a rusher. But it’s all very awkward and ineffective.

There is some hope though.

Steelers vs. Jaguars, 4th quarter, 1:52

Mark Robinson (#93) is the linebacker toward the top of the screen.

Robinson gets wide quick and does a great job splitting the threats on this zone play. If you watch the quarterback, E.J. Perry is looking that way and decides not to throw the ball. DeMarvin Leal has a bit to do with that, as his rush is right in the throwing lane, but Robinson is in good position here to make a play if any pass his way isn’t crisp.

The Point:

Robinson understands spacing, flow, and, in general, does a great job with his first read on the offense. He starts having problems when he needs to progress through multiple looks or assignments, but he’s not reading wrongly, just slow. That’s inexperience at the position, which was his major knock coming out of college. Also, despite being a blitzer on two 4th quarter turnover plays in two games, he hasn’t shown a good knack for pass rush, just that he can take up a blocker or get to the ball if he’s left alone. I haven’t seen him beat a blocker in pass rush yet, and in run defense he’s much better at evading blockers than dealing with blocks. When lineman or tight ends get their hands on him, he generally stays blocked.

If this was the early 2000’s, Mark Robinson could probably start right now. But in the current NFL, run defense isn’t as important as coverage. Mark Robinson shows promise, but not polish in his coverage, and would need to have limited responsibility in coverage if he ends up playing.