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Steelers OTAs Takeaways: Allen Robinson II Makes Impact, Benton Coached Up



Steelers OTAs Allen Robinson II

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers OTAs schedule continued along into its first week on Thursday for the third day of the sessions. The deeper the team goes, the more they continue to add on. So, what could be gleaned from what the team did on Thursday and what they did?

UDFA RB Standout

If there is one under-the-radar observation I noted from the start of this entire session with the running backs, Morgan State UDFA RB Alfonzo Graham is the type of guy to root for right away. In fact, he looks solid. He’s quick, has good burst, solid hands, but the most important thing I like about Graham is how quickly he picks up on things. Whenever others mess up in the drill, he adjusts his expectations to the drill accordingly. If running backs coach Eddie Faulkner tells him to fix something, he does. He told me he does reps on air off the side with the other running backs to take mental notes as he learns.

“I’m coming in here and trying to learn as quickly as possible,” Graham said. “I love being here, and I just want to learn as quickly as possible. So I’ll do anything to gain an edge.”

We’ll see what happens when the pads popping. For now, I’m tentatively intrigued from what I’ve seen from Graham in this first week.

Running Backs Rep Pass Pro

When I talked to Graham, he noted that he wanted to get better in pass protection. He confirmed that today, the team worked on pass protection multiple times with their running backs. Warren was good in this area a year ago while Harris is coming along. However, the third back has to do that to a similar level that Snell brought to the table. So, they worked on the ‘want to’ or effort aspect of getting in the mind to pass protect.

“Yessir,” Graham said. “Pass blocking to me is want to, so as long as you want to pass block and get after it, you know stick your nose in it, you can do it. We’re working on the technique, but that can come with the effort.”

This is something that will be extra important for the Steelers with Kenny Pickett continuing to grow. The running backs will have to be the X-factor in making sure that pass protection is shored up with some new moving pieces along the offensive line. That includes that potential RB3 overall.

Receivers Blocking

Speaking of setting a tone, the receivers today worked on blocking from an in-line, condensed set on safeties and overhangs that would come down to fit the run game. Anthony Miller confirmed that the team focused on run blocking today in that area and how it could affect their running game. Frisman Jackson wants the team to hone in on that part of the game to spring big runs on the outside.

“Listen, blocking is huge,” Miller said. “It’s one of those things that can spring our running backs open for big plays. We all worked on blocking, and blocking in general, whether that’s a safety or a cornerback, just getting those mechanics down is huge.”

Part of those mechanics is a ‘want’ to get after. The other part is hand usage and strength. Regardless, when you are a team that will likely focus on running the ball as much as Pittsburgh will, wide receiver blocking is something that can not be overlooked at any point.

Allen Robinson II Making Impact

Allen Robinson II is one of the bigger players to focus on in OTAs, and his impact is already felt. George Pickens said yesterday that in practice, he goes over to Robinson to discuss drills, routes, the playbook, and other nuances of the game. On the field, Robinson looks like a guy who still has his route-running prowess. He may not be the WR1 he once was, but he could be a veteran player that ends up being an invaluable resource and safety blanket.

Robinson’s got fluidity and size. Could that mean a move to the slot? I think that’s partially what could happen. However, let’s not just say that. Robinson believes that he, Pickens, and Diontae Johnson can all move around the formation wherever they like and that could be positive for the passing game.

“I think the ability to have many different presentations — I think that’s the main thing,” Robinson said. “Having guys that can play outside and play inside, it becomes difficult to just kind of key on guys. That’s the same thing with run/pass. Having some bigger guys that can get in there and dig out safeties and be involved in the run game, it makes it very hard to say run or pass and what you’re doing is very unpredictable. Once you’re able to do that to a defense and put them on their heels, that’s what you want.”

Double Team Trouble

The Steelers’ defensive line got after it today during Steelers OTAs. Breiden Fehoko confirmed to me that the team worked on double teams. For him, that’s a specialty and about the ‘millionth time’ he has done it in his career. But the interesting note from Fehoko came at how the team was teaching young rookie Keeanu Benton, who is a different body type from Fehoko and gets particular focus from Karl Dunbar. They’re teaching him in a different way from anyone, which makes sense, but the intricacies are fascinating.

“So, I play double teams differently than someone like Keeanu Benton will,” Fehoko said. “You know, that’s a guy who has more length and explosiveness. He can stab out and get those guys. So, he has to learn that. For me, my strength is, well, my strength. That’s how I win. Learning how you win in different spots is a big part of winning those battles.”

The team already confirmed that Benton will start learning nose tackle first. So, double teams will become critical for him to completely make an impact in the run game, and it is one of his main flaws on film. From pad level to utilizing that length, that is what Dunbar will want to focus on in the offseason.

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Roberta J Campbell
Roberta J Campbell
May 25, 2023 5:52 pm

I think the team is going to be better this year. With all the moves the Steelers made this off season I can’t wait to see you makes the team. My biggest fear going unto the season is with Canada. He is still in my opinion not a good OC and I am hoping the team can do well in spite of him.

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