The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 NFL Draft class has been a lot of fun to watch, and also extremely successful in their inaugural professional season. Whether you are talking about the top two picks of Kenny Pickett and George Pickens, or players like Connor Heyward and DeMarvin Leal who have turned heads during training camp, the rookie class has been above the line, as Mike Tomlin would say.
One player who has really been taken in my the Steelers global fan base has been 7th Round pick Mark Robinson. Not only did Robinson win the prestigious BTSC “Redman Award”, but who doesn’t love a story about a running back turned linebacker who was drafted in the NFL?
Throughout the exhibition season, Robinson has proven he has a lot of potential. Whether it was his strip sack of Drew Lock in Week 1, or his jarring hit in Week 2 vs. the Jaguars, Robinson has shown a willingness to do the dirty work from the interior of the defense. So much so he was able to bump drafted player Buddy Johnson off the 53-man roster.
But he is ready? Is he ready for snaps in the regular season?
Fans want to say yes, but defensive coordinator Teryl Austin spoke differently about the rookie from Ole Miss when meeting with reproters.
“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 at their position to be effective in this league.” Austin said of Robinson. “And so, until he gets all of that he’ll continue to develop on special teams and doing some stuff like that, I think that’s really it. It’s just going to be repetitions and getting skill development at his position and learning his position and how it’s played here in the NFL.”
Logically, Austin isn’t cutting down Robinson, merely stating the obvious. If Robinson is called into action in 2022, it means there was something which happened to have Robinson in the starting lineup. A similar example was when Vince Williams was a rookie in 2013. A ruptured biceps tendon to Larry Foote forced the 6th Round pick out of Florida State into the lineup earlier than necessary. The result wasn’t pretty.
While some might feel dejected with this news, Austin is impressed with what Robinson has shown thus far with the Steelers.
“Absolutely, Mike [Tomlin] always says I’d rather say ‘woah, then sick ‘em’, and he’s got a lot of sick ‘em in him.”
When you look at the Steelers inside linebacker position, plenty of criticism and concern has been made regarding the position. Devin Bush has found himself in the cross hairs of public scrutiny since injuring his ACL in his second year in the NFL. Myles Jack seems to have filled the void many were hoping to have filled, but the player next to him is far from decided.
Austin was asked about his confidence level in the inside linebackers, and if there is any clarity in the situation.
“The only clarity we have is that we have three guys that can play.” Austin said. “We will determine their playing time as we get going, but you will see all of them on the field.”
When Austin talks about the “three”, he is referring to Bush, Jack and Robert Spillane. Obviously, he is leaving Robinson off the list as he doesn’t view him as a viable option at the position in 2022, at least early on.
Like the offensive line on the other side of the ball, the linebackers will be heavily scrutinized for the foreseeable future until they find a duo which is capable of not just being a one year stop-gap, but the future of the position. Does Robinson embody that future? It’s possible, but fans should hope he isn’t forced into action before he, and the coaches, are ready for it.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and note surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the regular season opener vs. the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1.