Friday, August 23, 2013

How The Steelers' Adrian Robinson-For-Felix Jones Trade Affects The Respective Positions

Regular readers of this blog know of the infatuation I had with Adrian Robinson, the promising young outside linebacker who was the darling of the 2012 minicamp and Training Camp. Well, now the love affair is over. The Camp darling, if a 6'1", 250-pound man can be a "darling", has become trade bait as the Pittsburgh Steelers sent him to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for running back Felix Jones. 

The departure of Robinson and the addition of Jones shifts the seedings of the Steelers' linebackers who are battling for roster spots, and complicates those of the running backs and tight ends. 

To start, the linebacker position is one where the Steelers were fortunately well stocked, and they knew that keeping Robinson on the final 53-man roster would actually be difficult. Why? Two reasons. One is because he played in 12 games last season, as a result he hasn't any practice squad eligibility remaining. So if he were to be cut, he'd simply be gone with no compensation or anything to show for the time he was in town. 

The other reason is this year's Camp darling, Alan Baxter, the bantam but bulldozing undrafted rookie outside linebacker out of Northern Illinois. From all reports, Baxter is an outstanding athlete with a Howitzer for a first step, but in still very young (22 years old) and lacks the size (6'0", 238 lbs.) and strength needed at this level. But, it's his athletic explosiveness that the Steelers' defense has missed the last two seasons. Just as importantly, he has practice squad eligibility. 

Those factors made Robinson expendable. Because, otherwise, there would've been difficult decisions to make for the last two linebackers spots. Now, at worst, Baxter is now a lock for the practice squad, with Brian Rolle being in the discussion as well. At best, Baxter's explosiveness knocks the heretofore unproductive Chris Carter off of the roster.

That was the easy one. 

Though in Eagles Camp this offseason, Felix Jones was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys one spot ahead of former Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall in the 2008 NFL Draft. Jones rushed for 2,728 yards and averaged 4.8 yards per rush in five years with the Cowboys. -

This is a depth move, a stop gap, pure and simple. As If It Ain't Steel said individually on social media and as we alluded to in our previous blog, Le'Veon Bell's injury isn't a simple tear or "day-by-day" thing. -

In his press conference, head coach Mike Tomlin never said that Bell didn't have a Lisfranc injury, he said that "it's a mid-foot sprain. I guess the Lisfranc is involved in it in some way, but it's not a Lisfranc tear like Matt Spaeth experienced that will require surgery." 

"Not having a Lisfranc tear like Spaeth" simply means Bell doesn't need surgery. It's an injury like any other that has varying degrees and grades. He did finish that, though, by saying that the doctors informed that it is correctly termed a mid-foot sprain, but that sentence was capped by, "not that I know." And since he doesn't know, listen to someone who does as Christina Rivers expertly breaks down the injury and what it means for Spaeth and Bell. -

So, don't go jumping for joy (and causing your own mid-foot sprain) as if Bell will be back against the Carolina Panthers. This type of injury can be tricky and can still put him out for some time. The trade for Jones is proof of that. 

The 5'10", 215-pound Jones adds speed to the Steelers' backfield - the kind of speed possessed by neither Isaac Redman nor Jonathan Dwyer. So, their signing him indicates they weren't exactly content with one of them, probably Dwyer whom they tried to trade during the NFL Draft, and that one of them may not make the roster. They could pair Jones with one of the two as a sort of thunder and lightning approach in order to anchor the running game until Bell returns. 

The Steelers will protect their interest when it comes to Bell, and will presumably ease him back into action once cleared. That presents a problem when settling on the final 53 who will make the roster. 

One scenario suggests that the Steelers will keep three running backs and a fullback. That would allow for three tight ends and six wide receivers. Another suggests keeping four RBs, three TEs and five wideouts. 

If four RBs are kept, that would mean that one would be cut once Bell and then Spaeth, who'll likely receive the eight-game IR designation, return to action. 

Either way, the Steelers' benefiting from an embarrassment of riches at one position may allow them to avoid simple embarrassment at the other.