With the 2022 new league year, the questions will be plenty for quite a while, even as the Pittsburgh Steelers spend cash and cap space and use draft picks in an effort to find answers. We don’t know who the quarterback is going to be yet—even if we have a good idea. How will the offensive line be formulated? How will the secondary develop amid changes, including to the coaching staff? What does Teryl Austin bring to the table—and Brian Flores? What will Matt Canada’s offense look like absent Ben Roethlisberger?
These sorts of uncertainties are 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).
Topic Statement: Myles Jack will be a notable upgrade over Joe Schobert.
Explanation: The Steelers made some pretty big-for-them signings in free agency this year, including two of the largest contracts they’ve ever given out to outside free agents. That included a two-year, $16 million deal given to veteran inside linebacker Myles Jack, whose signing prompted them to release Joe Schobert, a former Pro Bowl starter they acquired via trade in August.
Schobert’s pure tackling numbers never really properly represented how he collected those tackles—nor did it properly contextualize his total tackle attempts, not to mention tackles he failed to attempt. He was primarily known for coverage, and that was based primarily on some good fortune on the interception front.
Jack doesn’t have the same ‘splash’ numbers, but he’s a more consistent play-to-play player, and his actual on-tape coverage ability is superior. He has better hips, certainly, and he’ll also have an advantage Schobert didn’t have in Pittsburgh: an actual offseason.
The inside linebacker play will be better this year largely because it has to be. It couldn’t get much worse than last year. But the real difference will be the defensive line improvements with Tyson Alualu and Stephon Tuitt returning, and not having to adjust to their absences on the fly. And the defensive line depth is better and more experienced this year as well.
And the reality is that Jack is far from without his problems. He’s actually not very good in traffic and in taking on blockers, or at least he puts that on tape more than you would want from a starter, let alone someone you’re paying $8 million per year.
A lot of what went wrong last year wasn’t Schobert’s fault. He was thrown a bad hand, including little time to get adjusted to his surroundings and his teammates. Even if Jack proves to be better, the actual difference in quality of play between the two, in a vacuum, probably won’t be what I would label as significant.