The Pittsburgh Steelers were hoping, even planning, to have Stephon Tuitt with them in Latrobe this year, but they knew that his retirement was a possibility. They remained flexible, bolstered by the knowledge that such a move would afford them returned salary cap space to address his absence, an opportunity they did not have last year.
When the announcement finally came in early June, then, the Steelers had the salary cap space to make a move, and by fortune of unfortunate circumstance, a player the quality of Larry Ogunjobi was still available. Recovering from an injury that ultimately negated a three-year, $40.5 million agreement with the Chicago Bears, the sixth-year veteran found himself still on the market, and open to a one-year, $8 million deal.
“He’s a really good football player, so when we had an opportunity to sign him, we jumped at it, would be what people would say, and we’re happy we got him”, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said of his new defensive lineman yesterday, speaking with Pat Kirwan, Jim Miller, and Paul Alexander on SiriusXM’s Movin’ the Chains program—on a personal note, always a highlight of Steelers training camp.
As a member of the Cincinnati Bengals during the 2021 season, Ogunjobi suffered a foot injury while the reigning AFC champions were making their title run. Coming off of a career year, he earned that lucrative contract from the Bears, only to have them fail him on his physical, negating the contract.
He remained unsigned until June precisely because of the matter of the health of his foot, but once the Steelers had a need at the position, they moved quickly. Naturally, they would not have made the move if they were not comfortable that the foot would be a major issue this season, but they have erred on the side of caution in preparing him for 2022.
“We’re getting him ready. We’re gonna let the healing process take its time, and he’s working his way, he’s doing some stuff on the side”, Austin said. “We expect him to be ready by the time that whistle blows in September”.
It was good news when Ogunjobi began training camp avoiding a stint on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform List, showing that he was at a point in the process where the medical staff felt comfortable with him being able to do some level of on-field work.
While he has taken part in some select drills, however, the Steelers have been cautious not to ramp up his workload too soon. It’s quite possible, even likely, that we don’t even see him play during the preseason, and that’s just fine by me as long as he is on the field and ready to contribute in Week 1—or at least soon thereafter.