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Steelers Vertex: Examining what Joe Schobert brings to the Steelers

What does the Steelers new linebacker bring to an already strong defense?

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars Training Camp Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

As the Pittsburgh Steelers have now completed half of their preseason games. Although there are a number of things from last week’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles which we could break down, it’s the trade report from during the game which we will focus on this week. The Steelers acquired linebacker Joe Schobert from the Jacksonville Jaguars, so before he sees game action let’s take a deeper look at what he brings to the Steel City.

Let’s get a quick reminder of where this nerdiness is coming from.

Vertex- a single point where two or more lines cross.

Sometimes to make a great point, it takes two different systems of analysis to come together and build off each other in order to drawl a proper conclusion. In this case, the two methods are statistical analysis and film breakdown. Enter Dave Schofield (the stat geek) and Geoffrey Benedict (the film guru) to come together to prove a single point based on our two lines of thinking.

Here comes the breakdown from two different lines of analysis.

The Stats Line:

Before diving into Schobert’s stats, let’s take a look at the deal which brought him to Pittsburgh. The Steelers sent their sixth-round draft pick from the 2022 NFL draft to Jacksonville in exchange for Joe Schobert and $3.65 million of his 2021 base salary. After a salary restructure of $2.36 million into a signing bonus, Schobert only costs $1.88 million against the salary cap this season. Schobert does have a $9.84 million cap number for 2022, but should the Steelers decide to move on after one season it would only cost them $1.77 million against the cap.

In Schobert’s five year career, the first four of which was with the Cleveland Browns, he has amassed 549 tackles with 21 of them being for loss. Schobert has 11.0 sacks, 25 quarterback hits, nine forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. Schubert also has nine career interceptions and 24 passes defensed.

Last year in Jacksonville, Schobert had 141 tackles, three interceptions, and two forced fumbles along with 2.5 sacks and six quarterback hits. According to Pro Football Reference, Schobert missed 14 tackles which equated to a 9% missed tackle rate. Although he had three interceptions, Schubert was targeted 66 times in the passing game and gave up 49 completions and six touchdowns (but was only credited with three according to Pro Football Focus).

While stats give a nice starting point (hence why we do these first in our vertex articles), many times they need the context of film in order to paint the full picture.

The Film Line:

Joe Schobert is a highly productive linebacker who went to the Pro Bowl as a Cleveland Brown. He has had a few huge games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and he earned a big contract from the Jacksonville Jaguars after his 2019 performance, which included the best game of his career in the Week 11 win over the Steelers.

What does Joe Schobert show on film that earned him a Pro Bowl nod and a big contract?

2019, Joe Schobert (#53) is the linebacker just below the hash marks to the bottom of the screen.

Schobert is a smart and fluid moving linebacker who does a good job getting to the ball. On this play he does a nice job of avoiding the pick route and shows good closing speed to the running back.

2019 Joe Schobert is the linebacker in the middle of the field, right between the hashmarks.

Here he is again on the running back. When his man stays in to block, he turns into a rusher and pressures the quarterback.

The Steelers are far more aggressive on these plays, asking their line backers to get right up on the line and into the backfield even before it is clear if the back is blocking or running a route. Schobert will need to adjust, and if he does well at that, he could easily record a career high in sacks.

2020, Joe Schobert (#47) is the linebacker to the bottom of the screen, standing right on the goal line,

You aren’t going to get flashy plays with Joe Schobert knifing into the backfield to blow up a run, or plays where he drives a lineman into the run lane to stuff the runner. What you are going to get is a linebacker that makes the plays in front of him. He’s more reliable than he is flashy, in large part because he isn’t a high-end athlete.

While his more normal level of athleticism doesn’t prevent Schobert from making plays and putting up good stats, it limits the assignments he can reasonably be asked to perform.

2020 Joe Schobert (#47) is the linebacker to the right side of the screen, he is pointing as the play starts.

The Chargers used motion to get Schobert matched up 1 on 1 with a 6’8” TE with pretty solid speed. The result is predictable. Schobert is a good coverage linebacker, but not when he’s manned up on a taller and faster tight end like this play. He is really good on running backs and in zone. Fortunately the Steelers have Devin Bush and Terrell Edmunds who are better fits for this kind of assignment, and when they do end up with this kind of mismatch, usually have help over the top for their linebacker, something Schobert doesn’t get on this play.

2020 Joe Schobert is the middle linebacker, between the hash marks.

Another negative I saw on film were plays like this. Schobert isn’t a dynamic run defender, and he isn’t the best at avoiding blocks like the one here. He is focused in on the running back and runs himself right into a block, and fighting with offensive lineman isn’t his game.

The Point:

While Schobert is an upgrade to the linebackers the Steelers have behind Devin Bush, and likely will be the best inside linebacker partner Bush has had so far, there’s a reason Jacksonville wasn’t going to pay him like a star linebacker. On film he moves and plays a lot like Robert Spillane did in 2020. That’s not a criticism, Spillane was really good in 2020 before his injury. Joe Schobert is just a better version of Robert Spillane, and he has years of film showing that compared to Spillane’s run of 8 good games last season.

The biggest positive Joe Schobert brings to the Steelers is reliability, he’s a well-rounded linebacker that has been productive and dependable his entire career. There’s a lot of value in that.