PITTSBURGH — It was only one throw and one catch, but don’t miss the importance of the play of veteran Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Allen Robinson II when it comes to the team’s play in its 27-15 win over the Buffalo Bills on Saturday night.
Robinson, like the rest of the first-team offense, played just two drives — and one of those two drives was a one-play touchdown — so he certainly didn’t show off a high volume of targets in the win over the Bills.
But what he did do is very indicative of the role that he might fill for the Steelers offense this season.
On a third and 7, Robinson was in motion on the right side of the formation, and he was not shadowed by a defender, signaling to him and quarterback Kenny Pickett that the Steelers would be facing zone coverage.
The other receivers on the right side of the formation, tight end Pat Freiermuth and outside receiver George Pickens, had more vertical routes, leaving slot corner Taron Johnson in a short zone against Robinson.
Robinson identified that the Bills were playing Cover 2, and found the weak spot in the zone between Johnson and outside corner Dane Jackson, running straight to the spot in a way that defies typical route tree dynamics.
But he got there in plenty of time to let Pickett step up and hit him for a first down.
“We were expecting Cover 2,” Pickett said. “It was a good call into that. Allen did a great job finding the zone, and we picked up the first down.”
The next play, Jaylen Warren cashed in with a 62-yard touchdown run. Now obviously, Robinson’s catch didn’t directly create the touchdown, but it did create the opportunity. The Steelers have talked a lot about being more explosive and taking more chances down the field this year.
That can also mean being some more difficult third down situations. If Robinson can help Pickett make third and 7 as routine as he did on Saturday night, the Steelers will get a lot more chances to shoot for big plays.
“That’s something that stuck out to me day one; just his IQ and his understanding of defense and offensive football, knowing when to sit in zones, run versus man,” Pickett said. “All those type of things that get you open on third down and in the red zone, Allen does a really good job of.”
The Steelers have two potential superstars at wide receiver between Pickens and Diontae Johnson. Robinson is on the other side of his career and has already proved his value this training camp by serving as a mentor to the young wide outs.
But he has plenty of value to bring to the table on the field, as well, as he showed on Saturday night.