Allen Robinson is looking to use the break as a way to connect with Steelers QB Kenny Pickett

Entering his first full season as the NFL’s starting quarterback with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kenny Pickett looks to build on the on-field connection he made over the past year with wide receivers Diontae Johnson and George Pickens .

The time Pickett has spent with veteran pass catcher Allen Robinson pales in comparison.

Robinson aims to change that, and he’s willing to use the six-week delay between minicamp and training camp to ensure that kind of chemistry takes shape.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound wide receiver was born and raised in Detroit, but makes his offseason home these days in New Jersey. It happens to be Pickett’s home state.

If Robinson has his way, in addition to Pickett enjoying his wedding next weekend, some of the second-year quarterback’s remaining free time during the break will be taken up throwing passes to his new teammate.

Many of them.

“That’s the plan,” Robinson said before the Steelers wrapped up minicamp Thursday. “We’ve talked it through. We’re both in New Jersey so it can happen.”


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Although the Steelers acquired Robinson in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams on April 18, it wasn’t until the second week of organized team activities in May that the 29-year-old was able to participate in team drills. His recovery from a stress fracture in his foot that required a screw to be inserted kept Robinson on the sidelines for the early part of offseason workouts.

That, in turn, hampered his ability to run routes and catch passes regularly from Pickett. That’s why Robinson feels he has to play catch-up at halftime.

“Where I’m at right now, just recently getting back on the field the last few weeks, I’ve got a lot of things to do,” Robinson said. “I want to improve my body by getting out there and training and working with different people to get back to my (old) self. I have a lot of things planned.”

Perhaps he was deferential to the 10-year NFL veteran, who turns 30 in August, but Pickett doesn’t think Robinson is that far behind the other Steelers receivers.

“I love Allen,” Pickett said. “He shows up every day with the mindset that he wants to work and get better. Once you have it, you’ll get there sooner or later. Definitely faster with him because of his work ethic and how much communication he has with myself and the things we’ve been doing when no one is looking.

“I think those things go a long way. We’re catching up fast. I think we’re pretty close to being there.”

The Steelers acquired Robinson a week before the NFL Draft because they felt the wide receiver room lacked a veteran presence last season when Pickett replaced Mitch Trubisky at quarterback a month into the season. Johnson was in his fourth NFL year, Pickens his first and Chase Claypool was in his third before the Steelers dealt him to the Chicago Bears at the trade deadline.

In his first season with the Rams after four stints in Chicago and Jacksonville, Robinson had a modest 33 catches, 339 yards and three touchdowns before his injury. He averaged 10.3 yards per carry. catch, which was a career low.

Robinson’s last 1,000-yard season — he has three — came in 2020. The Steelers will be happy if Robinson’s presence on the roster — and in the locker room — helps Johnson and Pickens develop as receivers.

“What a great guy and just a great leader,” offensive coordinator Matt Canada said. “When he comes in and gets involved, he has so much pride in his work, so much pride in his group, so much pride in the offense. He’s been a real asset to us as far as (knowing) what it takes to do that. And he’s a really, really good football player and another guy you have to cover. I think that’s a real advantage for us.”

Robinson had also made a positive impression on players assigned to cover him regularly in practice. Cornerback Patrick Peterson, whose arrival in the NFL predates Robinson by three years, showed no signs of rust when Robinson began running routes in organized team activities.

What he saw was a veteran pass catcher running precise routes on the practice field.

“It’s the subtle movement, the angles he tries to attack on a defensive back, little things like that that every receiver doesn’t have,” Peterson said. “If you have a receiver like that, you’re going to try to take advantage of his route running and give him the best advantage to be successful.”

The Steelers plan to have Robinson take plenty of snaps at wideout, the position Claypool and the since-departed Steven Sims occupied most of last season. That will free up Johnson and Pickens to play outside.

Considered an outside receiver early in his career, Robinson took just 13% of his snaps in the slot in 2015, when he set career highs with 1,400 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. As he’s matured, Robinson has taken more snaps inside, playing 32% of the time there last season.

“I think we have the ability to have many different presentations,” Robinson said. “I think that’s the main thing, having guys that can play outside, having guys that can play inside. It’s going to be tough just hitting on guys. Being able to have some bigger receivers that can come in and dig out safeties, be involved in the run game, makes it very difficult … very unpredictable for the defense.”

The exact roles — and how much Robinson moves around the offense — will expand and take shape in training camp. Until the Steelers report to Saint Vincent on July 26, Robinson plans to get up to speed with his conditioning and his chemistry with Pickett.

“You can do football-like things,” he said. “If you go to the right people and know what you want to achieve, you can make a good plan to do it. I have the right people in place. I feel good and confident about the plan over the next six weeks that going to camp.”

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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