PITTSBURGH — The Steelers OTAs continue onward as the team enters its final days of the offseason training activities with a mandatory minicamp coming up next week. However, Wednesday still brought plenty of interesting nuggets from the practice. So, what could we learn?
Mark Robinson Runs With First Team
Mark Robinson has been the subject of a lot of the commentary at Steelers OTAs with an impressive interception a week ago. However, now he might be rewarded for making plays. Elandon Roberts confirmed to me that he ran in team drills today with Robinson as the first-team linebackers. Now, Cole Holcomb did say a week ago that the Steelers are bringing him along slowly, so that could just be a byproduct, but it is a good sign for Robinson. Roberts loves the young linebacker’s energy.
“I worked next to Mark,” Roberts said. “I’m always glad to have a chance to work next to them all. But it’s all different. Me and Mark have been together for the most part, though. When I get a chance to go with anyone else, it just means I have to hone in more on communication and other things.”
Robinson has a lot of upside in his game. It is now just putting everything together, and making plays out on the practice field could parlay that upside into legitimate opportunity.
Keanu Neal Working at LB and Safety
The Steelers are not quite sure who their dime linebacker will be just yet, but Keanu Neal could be stepping into that role. He confirmed on Wednesday that he is working at both linebacker and safety, showcasing his versatility and unique skillset. He has played linebacker proper in the past, but that doesn’t appear to be what this is overall. While the team has yet to sign a coverage linebacker, it seems like Neal could be someone that fills in that subpackage linebacker role. We’ll see as more time develops, but it’s a possibility that has to be taken into consideration.
There are other options, such as an outside choice. On the roster, Cole Holcomb could be the guy if they simply stick to a linebacker. Hey, even Tanner Muse has an in here after making an interception yesterday. But as currently constructed, Neal might be the safest and best option for Pittsburgh to trot out there in dime. So far, Neal is standing out as a leader and mentor and has earned the praises of multiple players.
Sleeper RB Shows Out
Alfonzo Graham is someone at Steelers OTAs that I have talked about making an impression on me. I like his athleticism and ability to learn the game quickly. There are huge pluses to rookies who can ingest things and just focus on them to the fullest extent. Well, some of that learning is now flashing on the football field.
Graham confirmed to me he made a spectacular spinning catch along the sideline over two defenders. For a running back who most don’t know, that type of ability and play will open some eyes, and it sure did to me. Talking to Graham after, he feels he is a slept-on receiver that could play at a high level.
“I just focused on that ball with my eye discipline,” Graham said. “Once I got here, I’m learning how to catch the ball better. But I can make those plays. I know I belong here, but that’s definitely a play that I can put on tape.”
He has the right mentality to make a real push at the roster. We’ll what happens once the pads go on, but I think that Graham has some real juice to his game that can’t be discounted at a higher level right now.
More Play Action?
One thing that sticks out about the Steelers’ offense is that they simply have not had much play-action usage at all over the last few years. Well, if the prediction by Allen Robinson is anything to abide by at all, you can likely see that change. Robinson sees the Steelers working in a lot of play-action this season as part of their offense. There are other things they can do since Kenny Pickett is mobile, but that will be one part of producing explosive plays.
Maybe, it’s a believe it when you see it a moment. I can get that hesitation from anyone reading this. But Robinson comes from a play-action-heavy scheme in Sean McVay’s offense and there are apparently some similar vibes to the Steelers offense that he is picking up. If that’s true, expect the Steelers to try and create some chunk plays.