Pittsburgh Steelers second-year linebacker Mark Robinson’s calling card, at least so far in his career, is his physicality at inside linebacker.
He appeared sometimes his rookie season when he had the chance to step onto the field. Now that physique is earning him praise from a former Steelers great.
Appearing on Stage AE’s ‘Not Just Football with Cam Heyward’ podcast in Pittsburgh during the 2023 NFL Draft, former Steelers linebacker Vince Williams said Robinson is ‘only physical’ for today’s NFL , corresponding to what it takes to be a Steelers linebacker.
“I think Mark Robinson has a lot of athleticism. I think he’s purely physical for this period we’re playing in; you don’t see a lot of guys who are willing to go out and throw their bodies away with reckless abandon” “Williams told Heyward and his co-host Hayden Walsh, according to a video via the NFL’s YouTube page on ESPN. “I think if he really wants to cement the comparisons to Vince Williams, then his game above of the neck will have to make enormous progress.”
Robinson was a 2022 seventh-round draft pick who spent the vast majority of his rookie season as a healthy scratch, not even earning a helmet for special teams purposes. The team already had two other linebackers in Robert Spillane and Marcus Allen who were special teams. Neither will be back in 2023 as Spillane signed with the Las Vegas Raiders while Allen remains a free agent.
The Steelers were obviously intrigued by Robinson, a former running back with a physical, hard-hitting mind, spending that seventh-round pick on him and bringing it in slowly. He’s played in each of the last three games, technically including the Week 17 start against the Baltimore Ravens. He played half the snaps defensively and recorded seven tackles.
That physique and “appetite for contact,” as defensive coordinator Teryl Austin put it, got him onto the field. As Williams pointed out, the kind of physical presence Robinson brings as a young developing linebacker isn’t something very important in today’s NFL.
The days of hard-hitting linebackers are over, as the league instead focuses on smaller, sneakier linebackers to cover ground in the run-and-pass game. Robinson brings abilities to both like that physical presence downhill, but also that athletic linebacker who can play in space the more he develops.
As Williams points out, if Robinson is to take the next step in this position and become a key member of the Black and Gold defense, he must continue to grow above the neck. It was a strength for Williams back when he was the defensive quarterback at Steel City.
Robinson stays wet behind the ears and has a lot of development to do, until he learns the nuances of the position. Once he figured that out, coupled with his physique and athleticism, the sky’s the limit for Robinson in today’s NFL.