Joe Schobert expects to be three-down inside linebacker in his role with Steelers


With his trade to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Joe Schobert finds himself being coached by his sixth defensive coordinator in as many NFL seasons.

Schobert played under three coordinators in four seasons with the Cleveland Browns and two in as many training camps with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Keith Butler becomes No. 6 for Schobert, who practiced for the first time with his new team Sunday about 60 hours after the Steelers acquired him for a sixth-round draft pick.

Despite all of the changes in coordinators and systems, one thing apparently will remain the same for the 27-year-old inside linebacker. Schobert doesn’t plan to leave the field when the Steelers go to their subpackages.

“They have me learning the dime linebacker and mack ‘backer in personnel,” Schobert said after practice. “(We’re) getting that stuff underway. Once the season starts, (it’s) getting the green dot on the helmet, getting the calls from the coaches. That was the plan.”

Schobert’s arrival already has sent Robert Spillane to the bench, and if he remains on the field when the Steelers bring in a sixth defensive back, Devin Bush will be the odd-man out, too. And Bush was expected to call the defensive signals this year in his return from ACL surgery.

The acquisition of the 6-foot-1, 245-pound Schobert appears to have changed that school of thought.

In his first practice with the Steelers, Schobert not only worked with the first-team defense, he had the green dot on his helmet.

“Man, he’s a dawg,” safety Terrell Edmunds said. “I barely talked to him today. We were just going out and getting used to each other knowing each other and everything, but he was out there making some calls. It seemed as if he knows, pretty much, at least part of the defense when he was out there with us today.”

In his five NFL seasons, Schobert played a full, 16-game season three times. He played 100% of the defensive snaps for the Browns in 2017 when he was named to the Pro Bowl, and he logged 99% of the snaps in 2019 with the Browns and ‘20 with the Jaguars.

The numbers Schobert has produced in his career — four consecutive seasons of at least 100 tackles — that he can succeed no matter the coordinator or position he’s tasked to play in a 4-3 or 3-4 formation.

“I’m looking for his instincts and playmaking abilities,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “Regardless of his schemes, look at his stat line. It’s highly consistent. The scheme is somewhat irrelevant. His instincts and playmaking ability are what’s relevant.”

With the Steelers, Schobert has his sights set on playing in the third preseason game Saturday night against Detroit in hopes of speeding up his grasp of the defensive terminology.

“I’m not sure how many reps I’ll get before it will feel great, before I’ll be 100% comfortable making all the calls and communicating with everybody on defense,” he said. “It should be a pretty fluid, easy process, especially with all the veterans that are on the defense already.”

As part of the trade, the Jaguars reportedly are paying $3.65 million of Schobert’s $7 million salary. The Steelers converted all but $990,000 into a signing bonus, reducing the hit on their salary cap this season.

Schobert wasn’t aware he was on the trade market until the deal was completed Thursday. After a team meeting at 6 p.m., he was called into general manager Trent Baalke’s office. News leaked out during the Steelers preseason game at Philadelphia.

“It came out of the blue from my perspective,” he said. “No warning signs or predetermined stuff. I was talking to the defensive coaches after my meeting, and they were pretty shocked about it.”

Schobert was told by Baalke that the Steelers initiated trade discussions 12 hours before the deal was finalized.

“They were very persistent in trying to get a deal done and get me up here,” Schobert said.

After the initial shock of the trade wore off, Schobert recognized the upside of the deal. In his first five NFL seasons, his teams finished a combined 15-64-1. He played for teams that twice went 1-15 and one that went 0-16.

The Steelers, of course, haven’t had a losing season since 2003.

“You know what the standard is,” he said. “It’s understood. It’s been nothing but a pleasant surprise for me.”

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

Categories: Sports | Steelers/NFL