The 30-7 Week One defeat to the San Francisco 49ers left little to cheer about for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense. However, WR Allen Robinson bucked that trend with five catches for 64 yards, marking his highest yardage output since Week Nine of the 2021 season. Coincidentally, that standout performance was against the Steelers during a Monday Night Football game when Robinson played for the Chicago Bears.
Acquired from the LA Rams in April, Robinson was envisioned as the ideal veteran influence for budding receivers like George Pickens, and a reliable target for sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett
A week in, he has met these expectations, with a few exceptions.
Twice, with identical play calls from both sides, Robinson identified a hole in the cover-4 defense and skillfully worked away from the nearest defender for first down catches.
He also excelled during a scramble drill later in the game. Remaining active as Pickett scrambled, he eventually found an opening, reading a wave from his QB, and maneuvered back towards the center of the field, securing a 31-yard gain.
Though Robinson was largely in sync with his QB, there was an early-game lapse on third and 4. Working a mesh concept from left to right, the pivotal decision is whether to sit against a zone defense or continue running against man coverage. This choice should be made as the player crosses the midpoint of the center, in this instance, the hashmark.
You can see as Robinson is crossing that midpoint, his body language suggests to his QB that he’s sitting down. He presents his eyes and jersey number to the quarterback, hands poised for the catch. Yet, he continues to drift for some reason. Causing what looks to be a misfire from Pickett. What should have been an easy conversion turns into a Pittsburgh punt out of their own end zone.
That mistake was corrected by Robinson later, this time sitting down on a drag route against zone coverage. He uses a great savvy, space-aware move after the catch by faking inside before breaking out, leaving the LB Dre Greenlaw having to catch himself to stop from falling on his face. Anytime you can get an extra five yards, it’s a great rep.
Another concern regarding Allen Robinson’s performance was the several instances where he appeared to be casually strolling through the play, and the play below exemplifies this.
Watch how he lingers at the top of the route before finally breaking out of it. All the while, Pickett is left waiting for Robinson’s move on his option route. Eventually, Pickett opts to pass it outside to Calvin Austin, seemingly out of impatience.
Robinson was never the quickest athlete in and out of his breaks coming into the league and he’s certainly not now at 30 years old either. He’d be better suited to make quick, decisive decisions than whatever this at the top of his route.
To end on a better note, Robinson’s release techniques remain stellar. Below, you’ll see two impressive examples. On the first rep, he does a great job using quick feet to stay mostly clean and was luckily able to draw an illegal contact penalty on a third and 6 that set up the Steelers’ lone touchdown.
On the second rep, on the touchdown to Freiermuth, Robinson is able to get a clean inside release at the top of the screen and would have been wide open for a touchdown of his own had Pickett pre-snapped his side.
After just one full game featuring the duo of Allen Robinson and Kenny Pickett, it’s clear the entire offense seemed out of sync. While Robinson did emerge as the Steelers’ leading receiver, the chemistry between the two still appears to be a work in progress.
For the Steelers to truly capitalize on this pairing, Robinson must commit to clear, consistent route running, and both players must foster a deeper understanding of each other’s tendencies on the field. That takes time and reps. As the season rolls on, here’s hoping this duo shakes off their early jitters and becomes a staple of the Steelers’ offense.