The Steelers have made it clear that they aren’t happy with their off-ball linebackers this offseason, as they have completely overhauled the roster there. The only name returning from the crew last year is Mark Robinson, a seventh-round pick from last year. While many considered Robinson a long shot to amount to much, he showed promise last year.
Despite being a raw player, Robinson showed some promise as a thumper. He has the instincts and the want to be a physical run defender even if he still needs to refine himself as a player. He even showed promise in some limited plays on defense last year. This led me, and quite a few others, to have some hope that he could fill in as a starter for this team.
Even after early free agency, where the team added two starter-capable linebackers and a core special teams player, Robinson still looked like a potential starter heading into year two. Cole Holcomb got decent money on a three-year deal, locking him into one of the starting roles. Elandon Roberts is a similar player to Robinson, who could have easily been surpassed.
The Steelers aren’t as high on Robinson
It is becoming increasingly clear that the Steelers aren’t as high on Robinson as the rest of the fan base is. To an extent, that is fair. Robinson only appeared in four games with a handful of snaps. The role certainly shouldn’t have just been given to him, as he had a lot of things he needed to prove.
Since the draft wrapped up, the Steelers have continued to add to the room. The first was veteran Nick Kwiatkoski, who is a special teams player that can contribute on defense in a pinch. Again, this wasn’t the end of the world, as one could view Kwiatkoski as insurance who can kick in on special teams.
This past weekend, veteran Kwon Alexander was also signed to the roster. This move is much more damaging. Alexander has been a steady veteran presence, and while he isn’t the star that he used to be, he can still be a viable defender. The main difference is, Alexander has never been a core special teams player.
This seems to be the team indicating that they now have their trio of linebackers for the season. Holcomb figures to be the every-down starter while Roberts and Alexander will share the other role. Robinson could figure into that fight, but the Steelers seem to be counting against him at this point.
Is Robinson officially on the roster bubble?
With training camp having just started, there is still a lot of football to be played before anything is certain. That said, it isn’t a great look to see Robinson being pushed so far down this depth chart so quickly. I’ve been teasing this idea for about a month now: how safe is Robinson on this depth chart?
For a player many thought could start this season, Robinson is now likely the fourth-best option on the roster. While he profiles well as a special teams option, he isn’t proven there, and the team has two more established names at the position there as well now.
More than likely, the team will only keep four or five linebackers after training camp wraps up. Two names are set in stone, and I like the odds of a veteran like Alexander sticking around as well. That leaves one or two spots open, and I’m not sure Robinson should be seen as a favorite considering his lack of special teams experience.
Going from a potential starter to now a roster bubble candidate is quite the fall, but it seems as though the fanbase was higher on Robinson than the Steelers were. While there is still a path for him to make this team, it is a lot murkier than before. The Alexander signing has officially put Robinson and his roster odds on notice.