Once the Pittsburgh Steelers signed DL Larry Ogunjobi, many wondered how he would fit into the defensive line rotation. Figuratively, he could push either Tyson Alualu or Chris Wormley to see action in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 base defense, but should see action as one of the two defensive linemen on the field in sub package situations.
Still, a thought that should be considered is whether Pittsburgh would potentially look to extend Ogunjobi after the 2022 season as a potential replacement at nose tackle for the veteran Alualu, who has managed to battle back from an ankle injury that cost him a majority of the 2021 season to play for Pittsburgh at age 35 this year.
As of now, the Pittsburgh Steelers are scheduled to have roughly around $40 million in cap space in 2023 according to OverTheCap. Obviously, this number will fluctuate a fair amount between now at the start of the 2023 offseason with potential deals coming for Chris Boswell and Diontae Johnson as well as decisions that must be made on names including Terrell Edmunds and Devin Bush. Still, as Dave Bryan has often referenced on The Terrible Podcast, if the Pittsburgh Steelers want to sign someone, they will have more than the means of getting a deal done if they wish to do so.
As mentioned in a film room breakdown on Ogunjobi right after he signed, the new Steelers defensive lineman has the versatility to line up all over the defensive front, playing as a traditional 3-tech, 4i, 5-tech, or kicking inside to the 1-tech and even nose tackle. Over his career, Ogunjobi has logged 962 snaps in the A-gap, 2,049 snaps in the B-gap, and 463 snaps over the tackle according to the data provided via Pro Football Focus. More specifically, Ogunjobi has logged 421 snaps directly over the center during his NFL career, not counting the other 541 snaps where he lined up on either side of the center in the A-gap. This is to say that Ogunjobi can play as a NT if asked to.
Alualu primarily played as a base 3-tech himself in Jacksonville before coming over to Pittsburgh and saw his career get revived with a move inside to over the center, ultimately leading to him having a bigger impact as a high-level run defender in the middle of the defense. Therefore, with Ogunjobi coming in at 6’3″, 305 lbs. and Alualu coming in at a near-identical 6’3″, 304 lbs., who’s to say that Pittsburgh can’t re-sign Ogunjobi after the 2022 season, should he play well, to be Alualu’s long-term replacement as their nose tackle in their 3-4 base defense?
Dave Bryan and Alex Kozora debated this same topic in Friday’s edition of The Terrible Podcast, and the move seems plausible given Ogunjobi’s skill set, the need to find a successor for the 35-year-old Alualu, and the cap space Pittsburgh should have at their disposal next offseason. Obviously, Ogunjobi will have to show that his foot is healed from the injury he suffered in the 2021 playoffs this season to warrant a new deal, but given his prowess as a run defender, his improvement shown as a pass rusher, and has positional versatility on the DL, and that it would allow Pittsburgh to allocate other cap dollars and draft capital to other needs on the roster, the move does make some sense.
GM Omar Khan thought highly enough of Ogunjobi coming off the foot injury that axed his three-year deal worth $40.5 million with the Chicago Bears to bring him in on a one-year pact worth up to $8 million based on incentives. This follows the Pittsburgh Steelers’ M.O. of always striving to compete and make the playoffs each season, but it also could be a savvy move by Khan to get a talented defender in the organization on a one-year trial run before potentially signing him to a longer-term deal should he warrant it.
We’ll have to see how the season plays out and if Ogunjobi can be the same player he was in Cincinnati last season before we can consider him an extension candidate. Still, Pittsburgh opted to stay in-house when Javon Hargrave walked in free agency, promoting Alualu to man the middle of the defensive line. Now there’s a chance that history could repeat itself if Alualu chooses not to come back at age 36 with Ogunjobi in the building, highly motivated to get the bag next offseason with a strong 2022 performance.
What are your thoughts on Larry Ogunjobi? Do you think that he could be a potential long-term solution to the NT position with Alualu getting up there in age? Would it be worth Pittsburgh re-signing him next offseason if he proves worthy of a contract? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!