The regular season marks the culmination of an extensive investigation into who your team will be that year. By this point, you’ve gone through free agency, the draft, training camp, and the preseason. You feel good in your decisions insofar as you can create clarity without having played meaningful games. But there are still plenty of uncertainties that remain, whether at the start of the regular season or the end, and new ones continually develop over time.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Joe Schobert won’t be back in 2022.
Explanation: The Steelers traded for the former Pro Bowler in August in exchange for a sixth-round pick when they felt the need to address their starting inside linebacker position. He has put up 108 tackles this season with a forced fumble, an interception, and six passes defensed, but the film doesn’t look as good as the numbers, and he is due nearly $9 million in base salary in 2022
It should go without saying that the Steelers did not get $9 million play out of Schobert this year, and they’re not going to get $9 million play out of him next year, either. Getting rid of him is certainly not going to make the inside linebacker position better, but they can allocate those resources elsewhere—or back into it.
As much as it might infuriate you to hear this, there’s still a chance that Devin Bush can be a decent starter next year. And then there’s Robert Spillane, and Buddy Johnson. Between the two of them, they should be able to find one player worth playing at the buck, who would probably offer better run defense than Schobert.
Schobert is essentially on a series of one-year deals, so keeping him in 2022 doesn’t bind him in any way for 2023 or 2024. And as always, which is very important to note, the Steelers have at their disposal the ability to restructure his contract to lower his cap hit. His deal already has a void year in 2025.
It’s worth keeping in mind that he only joined the team on August 14. And he was playing behind an injury-riddled defensive line, and in front of a secondary in transition, with an inside linebacker next to him coming off a major injury who wasn’t trusting either his body or his instincts.
Put him in much better circumstances in 2022, potentially even with a new defensive coordinator and a new(ish) system, and you get different results. Results that better reflect compensation to the tune of $9 million. You can worry about 2023 in 2023.