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What does Allen Robinson bring to the Steelers offense?

How much does the veteran receiver have left in the tank?

Carolina Panthers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

In 2019 and 2020 Allen Robinson recorded 2397 yards and 13 touchdowns while playing all 32 games. Robinson in 2021 and 2022 had only 749 yards and 4 touchdowns in 22 games played, his production dropping to roughly one third of what it had been. While his last year with Chicago and first season with the Rams weren’t good, the five games before he was injured and lost for the season showed an uptick in production, with Robinson averaging 46 yards per game and scoring two touchdowns. A pace that over 17 games would lead to just under 800 yards and 7 TDs.

Robinson is coming to the Steelers as he enters his age 30 season, trying to rebound from disappointing production the past few seasons. To analyze what kind of chance he has of a more productive season, let’s look at what he showed on tape in 2022, and how that fits into what the Steelers do.

Allen Robinson (#1) is the third receiver from the top of the screen.

This is Allen Robinson’s second longest play in 2022, a double move and a nice catch on a Matthew Stafford pass. Stafford places this ball nicely on Robinson’s back shoulder and Robinson completes the catch for 23 yards. Since Robinson is likely to replace Chase Claypool’s snaps on the field, you can see a route and catch Chase Claypool made a number of times. These outside routes from the slot have value because the outside receiver is running the deep coverage away from the slot receiver. You can also see a very nice play design here with the outside receiver running fast up field to force the deep help back while Robinson and #10 Cooper Kupp work behind that route attacking the same area of the field at different angles.

Allen Robinson (#1) is the receiver to the top of the screen.

On this play Robinson lines up alone to the offense’s right side. Robinson does a great job faking an outside route at the snap, threatening a similar play to the one above for a touchdown, before breaking inside on a slant with his defender out of position to defend the ball. The ball is thrown hard and low but Robinson completes the catch, giving his team 2nd down inside the 5-yard line.

These quick routes gain key yards and keep the linebackers on their toes, and if the receiver, like Robinson, can create space with his threat of outside routes and protect the ball reliably, are a boring but valuable addition to the offense. The Steelers lost their best receiver on these routes when they lost JuJu Smith-Schuster, Allen Robinson should be able to bring them back into play for Kenny Pickett.

Allen Robinson (#1) is the receiver at the front of the bunch formation to the top of the screen.

This is another example of good, smart route running. See how Robinson gets inside of the defender with his first steps and hand usage, then gets even with the corner vertically. When he turns to run across the field his defender is squarely behind him, and would have to come through Robinson’s body to get to the ball. This is the kind of smart, physical route running the Steelers weren’t getting a lot of from their receivers last season.

Allen Robinson (#1) is the receiver to the top of the screen.

Here is a terrific example of attacking the soft spot in a zone. partway into his route you can see Robinson has two defenders in front of him and others behind him. Watch his head turn and see him slow down as he passes the first underneath defender. He is making the window between the two defenders last as long as he can to buy time for his quarterback to find him.

Allen Robinson (#1) is the receiver to the bottom of the screen.

This time the quarterback is rolling out and Robinson again slows down, understanding the quarterback can’t lead him too far because of the defender close to the sideline. All he has to do is be a bit in front of the linebacker underneath him and there will be a nice window for the throw.

Similar concept to the first clip in this article but Robinson doesn’t get as good of position, and Matthew Stafford isn’t throwing the ball and you’d need a George Pickens level catch to get yards on this play. Allen Robinson used to be a receiver that could convert on plays like this, but those days are past him.

Allen Robinson (#1) is the receiver to the bottom of the screen.

It wasn’t just his own decline hurting his numbers though, here Robinson is wide open if the quarterback can read the defense’s movement and through with anticipation. That doesn’t happen and the play ends with a sack. But you can see right here the point where the ball needs to be leaving the quarterback’s hand.

About a second from this point the quarterback will be sacked. Better movement in the pocket or faster recognition from the quarterback and this is a good gain for the Rams and Robinson.

Allen Robinson (#1) is the receiver to the top of the screen.

I included this play because I’ve shown a good number of plays where Robinson is running slower intentionally, so I wanted to show this play where he is running faster to clear out space for Cooper Kupp. I also chose this play because of the motion involved and the pass routes ran off of it. The Steelers should be looking to improve the passing game and how it connects with the Steelers motion-heavy run game. The addition of offensive assistant Glenn Thomas was most likely a part of that quest. Allen Robinson is coming from an offense that is one of the better designed schemes in the NFL, and one that integrated motion and passing well. Robinson won’t have a problem learning how to work these plays that the Steelers are likely trying to add to their offense.

Allen Robinson adds a veteran presence who has been praised for his leadership and mentoring of younger receivers before, who shows the kind of dedication to the craft of being a wide receiver, and who has experience in the kind of offense the Steelers want to run. In training camp and in meeting rooms that should make him a valuable addition. As for on the field. . .

When Ben Roethlisberger was starting to ascend as a quarterback Hines Ward’s best years were already behind him, but his skill navigating zone defense and running nuanced routes made him a valuable player into his mid-thirties. Allen Robinson isn’t Hines Ward, but he shows the skills to remain a valuable receiver even as his physical ability declines. I can definitely see why the Steelers were interested in acquiring him, he covers numerous things the Steelers need, even if he isn’t an ideal addition when you look at age and health, he should still be valuable.

Now whether he can give the Steelers 800 yards and 5+ touchdowns in 2023 is a huge question mark, but it is easy to see what the Steelers were looking for when they traded for him, and it’s easy to see why they would be looking for what he offers.