Steelers land their man, acquire playmaking LB Schobert
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke called linebacker Joe Schobert into his office after the final meeting of the day Thursday.
That’s when Baalke informed Schobert that the Pittsburgh Steelers called and they were aggressively pursuing another playmaker for their defense. The Steelers landed their man, acquiring Schobert from the rebuilding Jaguars for a 2022 sixth-round pick.
“(Baalke) told me that Pittsburgh called and they were very persistent on trying to get a deal done to get me up here,” Schobert said. “He said, ‘I wouldn’t put you in it if it wasn’t a good situation for you and your family, coming up to Pittsburgh and playing on a good team.’”
The Steelers officially announced the trade Saturday, and Schobert practiced with his new team for the first time Sunday.
Pittsburgh threw Schobert into the mix right away, putting him with the first team at inside linebacker alongside Devin Bush in the Steelers’ 3-4 defensive scheme. Schobert was also the lone linebacker on the field in the Steelers’ dime package during the two-minute drill at the end of practice.
“We’re trying to teach as much as we can, and the best way to teach is to get him in competitive situations,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.
Bush, a 2019 first-round pick, only played six games in 2020 before he was sidelined by a torn ACL. Robert Spillane, who started seven games in 2020, likely will move into a reserve role.
The Steelers sought additional depth at inside linebacker following the surprise retirement of veteran Vince Williams.
Tomlin likes the versatility that Schobert brings to the group.
“We’re excited about having him,” Tomlin said. “He’s been highly productive in every circumstance that he’s been in. He’s a sideline-to-sideline tackler, he’s good in coverage, he’s good in coverage production in terms of interceptions, he has sack production. He plays a well-rounded game and we’re excited about infusing him into what we do.”
Schobert is entering his sixth NFL season. He has played in 77 games, making 65 starts.
Schobert was selected by Cleveland in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft. He has registered at least 100 tackles in each of the last four seasons. The 27-year-old Schobert was the only player in the NFL in 2019 to tally at least 130 tackles and four interceptions.
Schobert said Sunday this will be the sixth defensive scheme he has learned in six years. But Tomlin doesn’t think it will difficult for his new inside linebacker to catch on.
“I’m looking for instincts and playmaking abilities, regardless of scheme,” Tomlin said. “Look at his stat line, it’s highly consistent, so the scheme is somewhat irrelevant. His instincts and playmaking ability is what’s relevant.”
The Steelers are familiar with Schobert, who spent his first four seasons in Cleveland.
Schobert recovered two fumbles for the Browns during a 21-21 tie to open the 2018 season. Schobert had 10 tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries, two interceptions and four passes defensed during a 21-7 win that was marred by an end-of-game brawl that involved Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and Browns defensive end Myles Garrett.
“The stars would align when I played the Steelers,” Schobert said. “I got some interceptions, got some turnovers ... it just always seemed to happen. We didn’t win a lot of them, but we won a couple.”
Schobert’s teams went 15-64-1 in five years, including a 1-15 record in Jacksonville last season. He signed a five-year, $53.7 million contract with the Jaguars in March 2020, and recorded 141 tackles, three interceptions and 2 1/2 sacks during his lone season in Jacksonville.
Now, he’s excited to get started in Pittsburgh.
“It’s a first-class organization, and you see that through meetings and talking to coaches,” Schobert said. “Everybody’s been here a long time and people know what the standard is. It’s been nothing but a pleasant surprise for me coming in.”
Schobert spent his first days in Pittsburgh learning the defense, primarily with defensive coordinator Keith Butler. He continues to learn the inside linebacker and dime positions, and once the season begins Schobert said he could eventually wear the green dot on his helmet and make the calls on defense.
Until then, Schobert hopes to familiarize himself enough to run a basic defense in Saturday’s home preseason game against Detroit.
“I don’t know how many reps I’ll get before it will feel great and I’ll be 100 percent comfortable, making the calls and communicating with everybody on defense,” Schobert said. “But I think it will be a pretty fluid, pretty easy process, especially with all the veterans that are on the defense already.”