Steelers use Top 30 visit to meet with polarizing defensive line prospect

Is Pittsburgh looking to groom the next big project on the defensive line?

LSU v Missouri
LSU v Missouri / Ed Zurga/GettyImages
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The Pittsburgh Steelers are broadening their horizons. Since their influx of trades and free agency moves, the focus has shifted to the pre-draft scouting trail. Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan have been on the road and have made some all-important stops at Georgia, Clemson, and Alabama for some of the biggest NFL Pro Days.

All the while, the Steelers are wasting no time planning pre-draft visits. Looking at the biggest holes on the roster, positions like center, offensive tackle, wide receiver, and cornerback are presumed to be the direction Pittsburgh will go early in the NFL Draft.

But there's another position this team is starting to eye that could be higher on their radar than we initially thought.

Addressing the interior defensive line has been a sneaky need for Pittsburgh this offseason. At the NFL Combine, they showed interest in several early-round defensive linemen. They have met with Florida State's Braden Fiske, one of this year's top prospects, at both the Combine and for a scheduled pre-draft visit. Now they have expressed interest in another early DL prospect.

On March 21st, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that the Pittsburgh Steelers have used a Top 30 visit and have met with Missouri defensive lineman, Darius Robinson.

A total of 20 teams plan to use a Top 30 visit to meet with Robinson, and it's not hard to see why they have interest. Robinson was an oversized edge defender at Missouri but projects as an interior defender in the NFL. He's coming off an incredible offseason and he flashed his tremendous quickness and strength during Senior Bowl Week.

At the NFL Combine, Robinson measured in at 6'5 1/8'' and 285 pounds with 34 1/2'' arms and a massive 84 3/8'' wingspan with 11'' hands. He ran a 4.95 40-yard dash while posting a 35'' vertical jump.

Steelers could view Darius Robinson as a Cameron Heyward type DL

Darius Robinson played the vast majority of his snaps at Missouri as an edge defender -- either lineup over our outside of the offensive tackle. But the Pittsburgh Steelers would have a very different plan for him if he joined their team in the 2024 NFL Draft.

With a tremendously long and powerful frame, and room to put on more mass, Robinson could be viewed as a Cameron Heyward or Stephon Tuitt type -- a former base end in college who can transition to a full-time interior defender in the NFL.

Coming out of Ohio State in 2011, Heyward wasn't all that dissimilar from Robinson. He weighed in at his Pro Day at 6'5'' and 294 pounds with 34 1/4'' arms and ran a 4.92, per MockDraftable.com. Tuitt measured in bigger during his Combine in 2014 (6'5'' and 304 pounds), but he had a similarly long frame (34 3/4'' arms).

Early in Mike Tomlin's tenure, he played with a pair of long, powerful defensive linemen in Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel. This is a model that has worked for Pittsburgh in the past, as their powerful defensive linemen possessed the flexibility to move up and down the line while proving to be stout against the run and offering ability as a pass rusher.

Darius Robinson has the tools and potential to be the next in line to fit this mold. He is already an excellent run defender and there's room to grow as a pass rusher.

Unfortunately, Robinson is shooting up draft boards thanks to a terrific pre-draft showing at the Combine and Senior Bowl. NFL Draft expert Daniel Jeremiah recently had Robinson mocked to the Buccaneers with the 26th overall pick.

Taking an interior defender with the 20th overall pick seems rich for Pittsburgh, but the Steelers are at least doing their due diligence by meeting with Robinson. The Missouri star is a polarizing prospect with an immensely high ceiling, and now that he has earned a Top 30 visit from the Steelers, we can say that he is officially on their radar in the 2024 NFL Draft.

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