Steelers Linebacker’s Contract Named Among the Worst in the NFL

Joe Schobert

Joe Sargent/Getty Images Ryan Tannehill of the Tennessee Titans looks to pass over pressure by Joe Schobert of the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 19, 2021.

Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Joe Schobert is scheduled to earn an $8.75 million salary in 2022, one of the reasons Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report named his contract the worst of any Steelers player next season. It was part of Ballentine’s effort to identify the worst contract on every NFL team for 2022, a list that also happens to include two former Steelers players.

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Joe Schobert Carries a $9.722 Million Cap Hit in 2022

As for Schobert, Ballentine highlights the size of Schobert’s salary and cap hit as compared to his impact/production, noting that the former fourth-round pick is set to count $9.722 million against the cap next season, before his salaries rise to $10.25 million (2023) and $10.75 million (2024).

“The veteran middle linebacker was brought in to be a consistent presence beside (fellow inside linebacker) Devin Bush,” writes Ballentine. “He did little to do that. He ranked 46th among all inside linebackers on PFF with a grade of 52.6,” not that far above the 46.3 grade produced by position-mate Robert Spillane, who will be a restricted free agent this spring.

One can argue that PFF’s grade sells Schobert short, however. What he does best is cover receivers out of the backfield, something that Spillane cannot do—at all—and something that Bush has often struggled to do since being selected No. 10 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Schobert may not be quite as good as he was when he made the Pro Bowl with the Browns in 2017, or when he had four interceptions and nine passes defensed for Cleveland in 2019. But he was in on 112 tackles (70 solo) in 2021 after being acquired in a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for a 2022 sixth-round pick. He also contributed six passes defensed and had one interception and one forced fumble.

Whether the Steelers retain Schobert in 2022 depends on many factors, including the health of Devin Bush and whether the team utilizes a high draft pick on a middle linebacker who has the potential to excel in pass coverage.

In a perfect world, the Steelers would like to find another Levon Kirkland, who was the first defensive draft pick of the Bill Cowher era (No. 38 overall in 1992 out of Clemson) and went on to play in Pittsburgh for nine seasons. At 6-foot-1 and somewhere between 275 and 300 pounds, Kirkland was a thumper who had the speed to cover running backs and tight ends all over the field, and he had pass rush skills.

But unless the Steelers find another unicorn like Kirkland, they will have to continue to divvy up the middle linebacker responsibilities among several players, much as they have done in recent years.

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The ‘Worst Contract’ on the Tennessee Titans Belongs to Bud Dupree?

Speaking of former Steelers players, several of those appear on Ballentine’s list, including outside linebacker Bud Dupree, who signed a five-year, $82.5 million deal with Tennessee in March 2021.

“The Tennessee Titans are already probably wishing they had a do-over with the Bud Dupree contract just one season into his tenure,” offers Ballentine, who notes that the former Steelers first-round pick had just three sacks in 11 games and missed six games with knee issues and an abdominal injury.

Dupree is scheduled to be paid a salary of $16 million in 2022 and carries a cap number of $19.2 million (per overthecap.com) with similar figures for all the remaining years of the contract, which expires after the 2025 season.

Yet it’s probably too soon to say the Titans wish they had a “do-over,” as the team had to expect his game would be compromised in 2021, having suffered a torn ACL in December 2020, an injury that typically takes at least a year to fully recover from.


Alejandro Villanueva the Ravens’ ‘Worst Contract’?

As for the worst contract on the Ravens, Ballentine believes that belongs to 33-year-old offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who signed a two-year deal with Baltimore in May 2021, one that carries a $4 million salary and $9.25 million cap hit in 2022, according to overthecap.com.

Villanuueva’s Ravens debut was a disaster, and he went on to allow a total of nine sacks over the course of the season, per Pro Football Focus. But the reality is that the Ravens can move on from Villanueva and save $6 million against the salary cap while absorbing a relatively modest $3.25 million in dead money.

Truth be told, it’s a surprise that the Ravens gave the former Army product such a large contract. At his first press conference as a member of the Ravens, Villanueva admitted that his options in free agency were “not plenty.”


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