What fans and opposing players have seen from Joe Schobert was enough for Browns defensive coordinator Steve Wilks to make the statement he did Friday.
Tack on what Wilks has seen behind the scenes with his middle linebacker, and it carries even more heft.
"Joe is playing at a high level. Probably one of the best linebackers in the league right now in how he is performing," Wilks said. "He is a leader for us. He commands the defense out there, getting everybody aligned and things that we ask of him. I am excited about his performance thus far this year, and hopefully, he can keep it going."
The reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Week has four interceptions in the last two games, marking the first time a linebacker has done that in 14 years. His 98 tackles are sixth in the NFL and are more than double the next-best total on the team. Going from zero to four interceptions in a two-week span has vaulted Schobert into a tie for fourth in the league.
Perhaps most importantly, as starters have dropped around him because of injuries and suspensions, Schobert has remained the one constant in the middle of Cleveland's defense.
"I always say it starts in practice," Wilks said. "I tell guys all the time you have to practice well for you to perform well in the game. Joe has that consistency every day in practice.
"He is smart, he understands, he studies film and he has great anticipated in exactly what is coming. We always talk about the formation is talking to you, and you have to listen with your eyes. He does some great things in regards to that pre-snap/post-snap play, and he puts himself in position to make plays."
Schobert made the Pro Bowl in 2017 and has a legitimate case to get another invitation this season. He's just not campaigning for it.
"I think I am just going to do my job and like I said, if I do the right things, if I do what I am told to do and full confidence in my abilities, I am going to end up where I want to be at the end of the year," Schobert said. "I think it is definitely going to be a good season and we will see where that leads."
Check out photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Steelers Sunday by team photographer Matt Starkey
-- Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said the team was in "wait-and-see" mode with tight end David Njoku, who remains designated to return from injured reserve after two weeks of practice. Asked if Njoku would be activated before Sunday's game at Pittsburgh, Kitchens said "I'm not willing to say yay or nay right now."
The Browns have until Dec. 11 to make a decision on Njoku. If he's not activated to the 53-man roster by that deadline, he'll be placed on season-ending injured reserve.
Njoku had four catches for 37 yards and a touchdown in a little more than one game of work before going down with a wrist injury Week 2 against the Jets.
-- The Browns are wary of Steelers QB Devlin Hodge's mobility even though he hasn't utilized it much in his limited opportunities this season. There's been extra emphasis on that aspect of Hodge's game since Cleveland surrendered 45 rushing yards to Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.
"We have to be ready for a possibility of a little bit more rollout and a little bit more boot trying to get him on the perimeter," Wilks said. "Most importantly, we have to make sure that we contain him."
Hodges has run eight times for 29 yards in two games with the majority (21) coming on one play. He rushed 90 times for 318 yards and eight touchdowns in his senior season at Samford.