The Pittsburgh Steelers have experience with players who have changed positions successfully. It dates back to when Tony Dungy was a successful college quarterback, who then became a key piece in the Steel Curtain defenses. He converted to a defensive back as an undrafted free agent. Hines Ward, Antwaan Randle El, and Zach Gentry all were college quarterbacks who made the transition to pass catchers in the NFL with varying degrees of success.
The Steelers’ latest investment in this type of experiment is Mark Robinson, who the team drafted in the seventh round of the 2022 NFL Draft. He had a tremendous preseason to help him make the team last year, demonstrating that he had the potential to be an impact player moving forward. Robinson only played four games in 2022 because there are distinct holes in his game. He was significantly behind in the passing game and was just not a finished product. However, his ability to play the run eventually got him on the field.
The former Ole Miss running back played one season in the SEC as a linebacker and four games as a professional. Robinson has worked hard to improve and during organized team activities, he demonstrated that he was making progress in defending the pass. Robinson intercepted Kenny Pickett during Tuesday’s session.
“Just a ball-aware play, came to me,” Robinson said. “Took advantage of the opportunity. What’s crazy for me, I really don’t see helmets and numbers. I could care less about who throws it. I’m here to play against anybody that shows up. Nameless, gray faces, you get what I’m saying.”
Robinson started the final two games in 2022 against the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns. He shined against the run-heavy Ravens with seven tackles, but only played 11 snaps against the Browns. Robinson played behind Myles Jack, Devin Bush Jr., and Robert Spillane for most of the season, but after Jack’s injury issues and Bush playing poorly, he found his way onto the field. Robinson was thankful for what his teammates taught him last year.
“I appreciate everything they taught me,” Robinson stated. “I have a lot of love, a lot of respect for those guys. E-Rob [Elandon Roberts] coming in [this season] and bringing that veteran pace and understanding. It’s a dream worth living. Everything you imagine, everything you dream, it’s there.”
Steelers Inside Linebacker Room Has A New Leader In Free Agent Elandon Roberts
The Steelers imported Elandon Roberts as a free agent and he has taken to a leadership role coming off his best season as a professional with the Miami Dolphins in 2022. Cole Holcomb from the Washington Commanders is another new face who figures to see the field quite a bit, but he does have a history of not being able to stay healthy. The Steelers will give Robinson every opportunity to earn his way onto the field on at least a rotational basis in 2023.
Robinson is already a fan favorite in Pittsburgh and many fans who were fed up with the former first-round pick Bush were clamoring for him to see more time in 2022. The Steelers’ linebacker coach last season, Brian Flores, did an excellent job in helping him progress and prepare for his late-season opportunities. Robinson has tremendous upside and if he finds his way into the rotation in 2023 and becomes a contributor, it will just be another in a long line of late-round defensive steals for Pittsburgh.