Sometimes in life you must be capable of reading between the lines in order to draw an accurate conclusion. Apparently there are plenty of Steelers fans who lack that capability.
I must admit that I feel at least partially responsible for this current predicament. After all, I am Mark Robinson's biggest fan. By far his most vocal supporter here at BTSC. I was even accused by a colleague of overhyping the talented seventh round selection too early in the training camp process.
I must be a powerful influencer, because Robinson would go on to win the coveted Isaac Redman Award, and a roster spot. Although I would love to take a small part of the credit, the truth is Mark Robinson earned every accolade and achievement through his perseverance and determination. I was just brilliant enough to see his success coming a little sooner than most, but I may have created a scenario of unrealistic expectations.
The more I campaigned for the talented young linebacker, the more community members jumped on the Mark Robinson hype train. Everyone is welcome in Mark Robinson's neighborhood. All you have to do to be a card-carrying member is recognize and appreciate his unique skill set, intensity, and potential.
I merely pointed out the positives of a seventh round longshot, and the community fell in love. Partly because the young man's story makes him easy to root for, and partially because all of Steelers Nation has been yearning for the next old-school baller at the ILB position.
However, there is always a price to pay when you unintentionally arrive on the scene like a much anticipated hero intent on rescuing the Steelers inside linebacker position from mediocrity. In this instance, the cost is the curse of unrealistic expectations.
There will always be haters and naysayers in life, regardless of your best efforts, but that's not the issue here. Mark Robinson is dealing with the unbearable weight of unattainable expectations at the moment, and all it took was a completely innocent statement from DC Teryl Austin to bring it all out in the open.
What did Austin say about his second year linebacker that was so controversial? I am about to tell you, folks, but you better be sitting down for this shocker.
Austin had the audacity to say that he believes that Robinson will be ready to compete for a starting spot next season. Can you believe the nerve of this guy?
The Twitterverse was instantly ablaze with this shocking news. The statements were easily predictable. Robinson must be struggling in his development. Poor Mark Robinson. Is Austin even going to give Robinson a chance to compete for a starting spot this season? Why does he have to wait until next season?
While the Mark Robinson fanbase was perplexed, the haters and naysayers were absolutely giddy. They quickly assumed that they were right all along in their assumption that Robinson was little more than an overhyped seventh round longshot for fans desperate for a savior at the position.
It's beyond obvious that there are a large portion of the Steelers fanbase who have lost the ability to read between the lines. Maybe it's an internal desire to jump to conclusions that fit their individual narratives, supporting their always negative outlook, like their faithful annual assertion that any seventh round selection is merely an afterthought until proven otherwise.
In truth, all Teryl Austin did was state a rather obvious observation, something that any knowledge fan was already aware of. Mark Robinson is progressing nicely, maybe even ahead of schedule, and he is a strong starting candidate next season.
That really shouldn't come as a shock to anyone who has been paying attention to the situation.
Austin's statement doesn't mean that Robinson isn't measuring up to the coaches expectations for him at this point in his development. Austin wasn't putting limitations on Robinson's ability to contribute to the Steelers defensive efforts this season by any means. He didn't even imply that Robinson has no chance of being a starter at some point this season.
Austin merely pointed out that has not been the Steelers intention this offseason. Truthfully, that makes perfect sense, and should have been the expectation for Steelers Nation.
After all, Robinson is a talented seventh round project who only playing inside linebacker for a single season at Ole Miss after making the position switch from running back. Robinson has unique athleticism, contact balance, and instincts for an off ball linebacker; but his lack of experience makes him incredibly raw in pass coverage. There is no substitute for the experience gained during live game action, regardless of your work ethic and film study. That part of Robinson's growth will take time.
The Steelers were more than aware, so they signed Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts in free agency. Both gentlemen are proven performers with starting experience. Both have been team captains at previous places of employment, and have excellent leadership skills. Holcomb even has an accomplished history of wearing the green dot, showcasing his communicative abilities.
Those additions alone should have been substantial evidence that Tomlin and company had no intention of throwing Robinson into a starting role before the youngster is fully ready.
Mark Robinson is going to be a valuable and productive member of the Steelers inside linebacker rotation this season. Who knows, he may just go out and earn a starting position sooner rather than later, exceeding even my own expectations.
However, Omar Khan and the Steelers have provided the necessary insurance to allow Mark Robinson to develop at his own pace, so that he can reach his full potential.
Based on all reports this offseason thus far, it sounds like Robinson is right on track to do just that. Keep the faith, Steelers Nation. But remember, patience is required.