New Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Joe Schobert practiced for the first time with his newest team on Sunday and according to multiple reports, he was inserted right in with the first-string unit. Schobert, who now seems destined to be the Steelers’ quarterback of the defense in 2021, now has the chore of learning the entire playbook and calls by the start of the regular season. While that would seem to be a daunting challenge, the Wisconsin product is pretty used to learning new schemes since entering the NFL in 2016
“This’ll be my sixth scheme in six years now learning,” Schobert said after Sunday’s training camp practice. “So, I’ve done a lot of similar things. There’s some new stuff, but mostly the biggest difference is the jargon, the language of the defense, just getting that on par with everybody else and being able to communicate when I’m on the field.”
While Schobert has a lot to learn in a short period of time, it doesn’t sound like he views it as a huge obstacle with exactly four weeks remaining until the team’s first regular season game takes place on the road against the Buffalo Bills.
“I mean, hopefully by Saturday at the [next preseason] game I’ll be able to at least run the basic stuff pretty confidently,” Schobert said. “And then as the games go on, as the season progresses, it’ll just get more comfortable. And it’s just going to take reps. I don’t know how many reps I’ll get before it’ll feel great, before I’ll be a hundred percent comfortable making all the calls and communicating with everybody on defense, but I think it’ll be a pretty fluid and pretty easy process, especially with all the veterans that are on the defense already.”
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin talked after Sunday’s practice and as expected, he doesn’t sound like he’s too worried about Schobert not recently playing in a defensive scheme that he’ll now play in in Pittsburgh in 2021
“I’m not looking for similarities or differences in defensive scheme, I’m looking for his instincts and play-making abilities,” Tomlin said of Schobert. “And regardless of schemes, because you mentioned a number of schemes that he’s been in, look at his stat-line. It’s highly consistent. So, the scheme is somewhat irrelevant. His instincts and play-making ability is what’s relevant.”
Schobert admitted after Sunday’s practice that he would have to go all the way back to his rookie 2016 season with the Cleveland Browns to remember a defensive scheme that he played in that’s similar to the one he’ll play in this season with the Steelers.
“No, from my scheme in Jacksonville last year, the scheme in Jacksonville this year and the scheme in Cleveland in 2019, it’s [this Steelers scheme] totally different than those ones,” Schobert said. “It’s more similar to my rookie year in Cleveland when Ray Horton was the defensive coordinator. It’s more along those lines, but even it’s not too close to that. It’s just, it’ll be a new adjustment, but hopefully it’ll be a smooth one, like I said.”
Schobert admitted on Sunday that since arriving in Pittsburgh that he’s spent a lot of time with defensive coordinator Keith Butler off the field and with fellow inside linebackers Devin Bush and Robert Spillane on the field.
“In a lot of meetings yesterday and today to get the basic installs written down and put into my memory bank and just got to get out here and start getting reps at,” Schober said.
Tomlin was asked after Sunday’s practice if he has any sort of expectations as to how long it might take a new player such as Schobert to get up to speed and learn the defensive system.
“Depends on the guy and his ability to learn,” Tomlin said. “Usually, guys that have played football acclimate quickly. I remember we acquired Joe Haden a number of years ago, you know, going into the fourth preseason game in Carolina. And so veteran players usually adapt and adjust pretty quickly. Most of them have been in multiple systems and can relate things to things that they’ve done in the past. And I’m sure he’s [Schobert’s] been in enough systems where he can do that.”
The Steelers next preseason game is next Saturday night at Heinz Field against the Detroit Lions so we can expect Schobert to make his Pittsburgh debut in that contest as a starter.