If there is one thing that Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin likes, it’s linebackers. After all, he has used the team’s first-round draft choice on a linebacker six times out of 15 classes, including three inside linebackers in Lawrence Timmons (2007), Ryan Shazier (2014), and most recently, Devin Bush (2019).
It’s only natural for a head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers to have an affinity for a position that has been so vital to the team’s history, including Hall of Famers. And he had a message to his inside linebackers in part of his pre-game ritual, telling them that the day’s game on Sunday would be decided by the linebackers.
“That definitely was the message during the week. It’s AFC North football, two teams that like to run the ball and have a long, shared history of physical games and a physical rivalry”, linebacker Joe Schobert said yesterday when he was asked about it, via the team’s media department.
“He always stands by the linebackers at that point during warmups and says something to try to get us going”, he added. “Obviously, when your head coach, and it’s Mike T over there yelling something at you, you take it a little bit to heart, and it helps pump you up and fire you up for the game. He’s a great motivator”.
Schobert ended up leading the team in tackles for the game with nine, and he also produced a critical forced fumble, punching the ball loose from a former teammate, wide receiver Jarvis Landry, late in the second half just as the Browns secured a first down on the doorstep of the red zone, trailing by five. Bush also contributed five tackles, and Robert Spillane two.
The Steelers certainly can’t be accused of ignoring the position, at least since they failed to address it in 2018 in the aftermath of Shazier’s career-ending injury. They traded up to draft Bush in 2019, adding Mark Barron in free agency as well.
It was Vince Williams stepping up yet again last year, and he was back in 2021, but opted to retire as the Steelers were set to open up training camp. By then, however, they had already drafted Buddy Johnson in the fourth round. And then they acquired Schobert via trade during camp.
Pittsburgh is carrying five inside linebackers on the roster. Behind Bush, Schobert, and Spillane, with Johnson as a weekly inactive, they have two special teams contributors in Marcus Allen and Ulysees Gilbert III, both of whom have also played on defense.