Week 11 of 2019. Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cleveland Browns. Otherwise known as the Myles Garrett/Mason Rudolph game. That became the headline, understandably so, for that whole week’s news cycle. The game didn’t matter. Who played well, who didn’t, totally irrelevant.
Which is sort of a shame. Because linebacker Joe Schobert had an elite performance. One I don’t think the Pittsburgh Steelers’ coaching staff has forgotten about.
You don’t even need to watch the tape – though we certainly will – to know how good of a game it was. Just look at his numbers. Here they are.
Joe Schobert Vs Pittsburgh, 2019 Week 11
4 Pass Deflections
2 QB Hits
Hard to have a more colorful box score than that. The tape might not have been *quite* as good as those numbers but man, when you have a performance like that, it’s hard to ignore. Let’s look at Schobert’s impact in that game. He’s #53 in these clips.
This is an elongated run game but it’s a great diagnosis, close, and finish on this screen to RB Jaylen Samuels. Tracks the back the whole way and tackles Samuels as soon as he makes the catch. The Steelers do a poor job here, hardly getting anyone out in space, but it’s a solid rep and impact play in the passing game.
This was the first of Schobert’s two interceptions. Zone coverage, opening his hips to the field and getting depth like a Tampa 2 linebacker. He’s able to fluidly flip his hips as WR Tevin Jones crosses his face. Mason Rudolph’s throw is low and off-line, allowing Schobert to make a great diving catch to pick the ball off the ground for the turnover. Not a good throw, of course, but a strong zone rep, showing his athleticism and capitalizing on his chance.
Here, Schobert pops out of the A gap on this Browns’ blitz to the weakside B gap. He covers Vance McDonald on this crosser and bats away Rudolph’s hurried throw for the incompletion.
Here’s his second INT late in the game. Zone drop, passing off the underneath crosser and then getting depth down the middle. Good feel for route combinations, knowing the deeper crosser might be coming behind with the Y running shallow.
Rudolph throws the ball right at him and he plucks it out of the air, nearly returning it into the end zone before being tackled at the Steelers’ five.
Schobert also made plays against the run. Power run to the left with RG David DeCastro pulling across. Schobert reads the puller and flows with it while still staying square if the back cut back. Once the back pops out behind the puller, Schobert attacks downhill, scraping over LT Alejandro Villanueva and making a quality wrap-and-roll tackle to stop Samuels at the line of scrimmage.
Here, Schobert is the backside linebacker. Trey Edmunds runs left and Schobert breaks on the ball, staying clean and taking a great angle downhill to meet him and be the first man in on the tackle. Stands him up as his teammates come to help for a short gain. Like the recognition, the change of direction, and closing speed. First guy there despite being on the backside of this run.
And just for good measure, Schobert finished the game and day with a sack, one play before Garrett went helmet hunting. Free rush here with the Browns blitzing away from the Steelers’ slide and he wraps up Mason Rudolph for the sack. Good scheme here and it was the cherry on top of a dominant performance.
Granted, the Steelers were miserable in this game. A downright failure and low point of the season in terms of performance. Pittsburgh made things relatively easy on Schobert and the rest of the Browns’ defense and we actually pointed that out at the time.
But I’ve thought about Schobert’s play in that game since it happened. He was absolutely everywhere that night, maybe the best game of his career. Pittsburgh is very familiar with Schobert after spending four years as a Brown. And I have to think that game left one heck of an impression in their minds.
Is that the type of player the Steelers will get every week? Probably not. By many accounts, his 2020 season with Jacksonville wasn’t great. And I have my concerns with the team taking on such a big contract even for a dirt-cheap price. But the Steelers are all about connections; players they scouted heavily out of the draft who become free agents, coaches who worked with players in the Pro Bowl (like Melvin Ingram) and thorns in their side over the years. Schobert falls in that latter camp and if I had to guess, Tomlin brings that game up once the deal becomes final and he can publicly address the decision. It was the first thing I thought of, anyway.