The term that comes to mind with one look at A'Shawn Robinson is "A Boss."
Robinson, the 6-3 5/8, 307-pound defensive lineman for national champion Alabama, stood at the podium at the NFL Combine looking very much like "a boss" last February.
While Jarran Reed -- Robinson's partner in the many crimes committed against opposing run offenses while at Alabama -- joked with reporters and talked about the Pittsburgh Steelers being his favorite team, Robinson was quite the opposite. A formal meeting with the Steelers and former 'Bama legend John Mitchell hardly registered at all with Robinson.
But he did explain that his menacing look was NOT manufactured.
"It wasn’t really an intimidation thing," Robinson said of his beard. "I got into college and I was going bald, so growing the beard ... I don’t know, I don't really smile too often so people were like, ‘Dude looks old. He looks like he’s about 40 years old.’ So I was like 'OK. I like it.'"
Robinson even backed off a statement he had made before the national title game about not liking the media.
"Nah. You get annoyed every once in a while with the media," he said. "(They're) just asking you questions. No, I was just ready to play. Everyone, the team kept talking trash and I was ready to play. I was just tired of talking to the media."
That's when he gets really mean, when he plays. Robinson let that out when asked how he learned to use his hands so well.
"Coach (Dick) Booth, he tells us like try to choke someone. Anybody that ever just made you mad, just try to choke ‘em. Choke ‘em to death. So I start squeezing, grabbing pads, just start squeezing, shaking, shaking the fillings out of ‘em. So that’s what we try to do every time we get our hands inside and grab 'em."
That's how Robinson played for three years as a starting nose tackle and 3-4 defensive end for Alabama.
In his 30 starts, the Crimson Tide went 27-3. Robinson and Reed controlled the middle as two-gappers who allowed middle linebacker Reggie Ragland to make the plays. The scheme, said Robinson, was primarily the reason he had only nine sacks in those three years.
"I feel like I can improve on everything," he said. "But I most want to improve on my pass rush and become a better rusher."
It's no doubt the Steelers would like to see more of that from Robinson, who was their lone visiting college prospect on Tuesday.
The Steelers have their starting tackles, and they don't use a nose tackle much these days, so they're not likely to use a first-round pick on a two-gapping, shock-punching run-stuffer.
Perhaps the Steelers are preparing to grab one of the top defensive tackles should they fall into the second round, as Stephon Tuitt did in 2014. Robinson would be quite a second-round plum.
"At Alabama, we played 4-3, 3-4 so we do a little bit of both," Robinson said. "But we just don’t shoot upfield. Most of the time we're just gapping and pushing the pocket. But I feel like I have the ability to actually penetrate the gap and show my athleticism, how I can get to the quarterback much (more) efficiently than I did at Alabama. I feel that I can show that off when a team picks me up."
Robinson doesn't have the stats, nor did he put up numbers at the Combine that would suggest a pass-rush is in the offing. He ran the 40 in 5.17 with a 1.78 10, showed little explosion in his jumps (26 vertical) and repped only 22 times on the bench.
But scouts like the fact that the just-turned 21-year-old has a powerful punch, a quick first step and of course a serious disposition. They believe Robinson's ceiling remains high, and that he'll be worth the risk, particularly if he falls to the second round.