Joe Schobert only had two career interceptions in his three-year career before Thursday’s primetime game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The linebacker is much more known for bone-crushing hits and an ability to stuff the run, but he made his impact in the Browns’ 21-7 win over the Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium by disrupting pass lanes and hauling in two interceptions that helped keep the offense on the field.
Schobert’s two interceptions invigorated the defense to one of its best games of the season. The Browns held the Steelers to their lowest point total since Week 1 and limited their offense to only 236 total yards and two third down conversions.
Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph threw four interceptions and rarely had a spacious pocket on passing plays. Cleveland came into the game with just four interceptions on the season and hadn’t picked off a pass since Week 4 at Baltimore.
“Just coming off a short week, we knew (the Steelers) were going to stick to their base stuff, what they were good at,” Schobert said. “There wasn’t going to be too much variation in game plan, so I think the communication on the whole defensive aspect was good. They kept it simple. We were able to play fast, and you saw the results.”
Check out photos of players getting ready to face the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday
The Browns were destined for turnovers against Rudolph, who entered Thursday with four interceptions in seven games this season and two picks in his last two games.
That opened the door for someone to step up. A big game could’ve been in store for Denzel Ward with lockdown defense against Juju Smith-Schuster. Or perhaps Greedy Williams could’ve shined on the national stage with a pick or two of his own.
The Browns, however, didn’t need massive nights from any of their defensive backs.
That came from Schobert.
His first interception came in the third quarter on the Steelers’ first drive of the half. Rudolph was looking to make a big play with Tevin Jones from Pittsburgh’s 31, but the pass was underthrown, and Schobert hit the brakes in his coverage to snag the pass.
His second interception, however, felt like a game-sealer.
With 6 minutes left and the Browns clinging to a 14-7 lead, Rudolph attempted to stretch the field from the Steelers’ 9-yard line with a 20-yard pass to James Washington.
But it was Schobert, again, who stepped up and made the catch. This time, he could stay on his feet and set his sights on the end zone.
“At first, I was going to jump (for the end zone),” Schobert said. “Then I saw about three 6-foot-5 plus guys building a wall.”
Instead, Schobert stopped and was eventually tackled at the 4-yard line … by Rudolph.
Schobert was happy for the interception, but he laid on the grass after the tackle, attempting to come to grips with how close he came to a touchdown.
“That was just…” Schobert said with a smile as he shook his head. “I couldn’t get tackled by a quarterback. I was disappointed in myself.”
The Browns weren’t disappointed, though. That interception set up Baker Mayfield for a touchdown pass to Stephen Carlson that gave Cleveland a 21-7 lead.
It will also stand as one of the top highlights to a win that the Browns needed to continue make up ground in the playoff race. The Browns are in position to be in the thick of the playoff hunt if they can continue to replicate s a dominant defensive performance like Thursday’s.
This week, it was Schobert’s turn to lead the defensive charge.
“The takeaways battle is the biggest contributor to winning football games,” Schobert said. “If we keep building on that, we’re going to be right where we want to be.”