To label the run defense of the 2021-22 Pittsburgh Steelers as abysmal is a huge understatement as they week-in and week-out were routinely gashed on the ground, even by some mediocre offenses. Injuries ravaged their starting defensive line, as NT Tyson Alualu was lost for the year in the second game of the season and standout DE Stephon Tuitt missed the season as well, due to a knee injury and the untimely death of his younger brother. All-Pro Cam Heyward continued his stellar play, but it was clear reinforcements were needed. Coupled with the recent retirement of Tuitt, this left the team caught between a rock and a hard place up front. True, the team did draft DeMarvin Leal in the third round, and re-signed Montravius Adams, but none of them likely put fear into opposing linemen the way Tuitt did.
Enter Larry Ogunjobi, the 6-foot-3, 305-pound defensive tackle by way of the AFC Champion Bengals, with whom last season he had his finest career as a pro, logging seven sacks and a team-high 12 tackles for loss. He also previously played for the Browns, who drafted him in the third round in 2017. With both teams, Ogunjobi showed an uncanny ability to play in either an odd or even front, or as Mike Tomlin would say, “he has an ability to wear multiple hats for us,” and Ogunjobi agreed, as echoed by statements he made on the Movin’ The Chains podcast with Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan.
“I think it fits my skillset really well,” Ogunjobi said. “Just being able to just get off the ball and just attack, just use my ability to take the two-way gap. I’m just excited, I think the scheme fits me well.”
He rattled off the laundry list of playmakers that he’ll be surrounded with like Heyward, the reigning DPOY T.J. Watt and his old college teammate at Charlotte, Alex Highsmith, of who he said he’s excited to get back working with him. He noted that working with guys like that surrounding him, it puts less pressure on him and just allows him to go out there and play.
“The pass rush puts a lot of pressure on offenses, I think that’s the biggest thing. I’m excited for what Coach Dunbar and Coach Austin has in store for me.”
Earlier this offseason, he had signed a $40 million deal with the Bears, but that deal was nixed, resulting from issues regarding his physical. He had undergone Lisfranc surgery which obviously can be a tricky one, but obviously the Steelers felt comfortable enough with his status to sign him, and they’ve already been offering positive remarks that he should be a go for training camp in Latrobe in a few short weeks. He himself said as much in how he’s attacking his rehab and just taking a one-day-at-a-time mentality as the middle of summer is almost upon us, and before we know it, training camp and the preseason.
“I’m just excited, you can probably hear it in my voice but I’ve been out of football for longer than I would like, so I’m excited to get back.”