PITTSBURGH — Second-year Pittsburgh Steelers defender Mark Robinson did not come naturally to being a linebacker.
The seventh-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Robinson came to Pittsburgh by way of Ole Miss, but he spent just one season with the Rebels and just one season as a linebacker.
Robinson started his college football career at Presbyterian College. When that school closed its football program, he transferred to Southeastern Missouri. After two years there, he transferred to Ole Miss as a linebacker.
Clearly, Robinson is a person that doesn’t mind redefining himself. For a seventh-round pick, he had what can be characterized as a successful rookie season. Robinson made the team and was activated for four games.
In the final two games of the season, with the Steelers playing run-heavy Baltimore and Cleveland squads, he earned a starting nod. Robinson only played as part of the base defense in those games, earning 26 and 11 snaps, respectively, but it was clear that he also earned the faith of the coaching staff to trust him in key situations.
But he wasn’t content with just that coming into season two, so Robinson made what he saw as a necessary change to his work regimen for this spring, in terms of his off-the-field prep work.
“Ever since the first day I walked in this building, I realized the gap in the guys who stay here and the guys who don’t,” Robinson said. “And it’s all about preparation for me, man. This is a dream come true and I ain’t trying to waste it.”
Even since new inside linebackers coach Aaron Curry got here at the start of this offseason, he’s noticed the growth in the young backer.
“For a second year player, he’s made tremendous progress,” Curry said. “I’ve seen other second-year players before, and the light bulb is still not on. His light bulb is coming on. What he’s done that’s really cool to me is that he’s changed and increased his study habits. He takes really good notes. He asks really good questions. He challenges things that don’t make sense to him. He’s really focused on figuring this thing out.”
Coming over from running back, Robinson was already fast and athletic. He’s also plenty tough and physical, prerequisites for the position under Curry and head coach Mike Tomlin.
The mental part of the linebacker position, and turning knowledge into instincts through practice reps, is the growth that Robinson will need to continue to show in order for the team to eventually trust him with more than just base defense work against run-heavy teams.
“I see a young player that’s going to be really good,” Curry said. “I see a young player that’s taking the time to develop himself professionally. He’s taking the time to detail out his work and his scheme. He comes with a natural skillset of speed and physicality and toughness. He’s a perfect fit.”