While wholly unsurprising, the Pittsburgh Steelers witnessed the retirement of Stephon Tuitt earlier this offseason, a decision that left a sizeable hole in the defense that they clearly struggled to adjust to fill a season ago.
This offseason, with the benefit of the cap space that they saved with Tuitt’s retirement, they were able to go out and bring in a pedigreed talent to replace him, signing Larry Ogunjobi to a one-year, $8 million deal.
The only reason that he was available, of course, was due to the fact that he is still recovering from an injury that he suffered while a member of the Cincinnati Bengals last season during their postseason run. He initially agreed to a three-year contract in March with the Chicago Bears that would have paid him over $13 million per season, only to see it fall through due to a failed physical.
He’s not quite all the way back even now, but the Steelers are content with where he is and how he’s coming along, and even those in the locker room are expecting big contributions from him when he is fully ready, as Chris Wormley said on 93.7 The Fan yesterday before practice, speaking to Ron Cook and Joe Starkey.
“He’s coming off a major injury in the playoffs last year so he’s still working his way back, but as soon as he’s ready, I know he’ll be a player that’s gonna be counted on”, he told his hosts about Ogunjobi, “and someone that’s gonna be asked to make a lot of plays and is gonna make an impact”.
A third-round draft pick out of Charlotte in 2017, he spent his first four seasons with the Cleveland Browns before signing with the Bengals as a free agent last year. He had a career year in Cincinnati, which led to his big deal with Chicago, but now he has to prove himself again, and the Steelers provided him with that opportunity.
The great news is that he did not have to begin training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform List, meaning that he has been able to practice, even though they are bringing him along slowly. The name of the game is caution, and they have been conservative with his deployment thus far, holding him back more than is likely necessary in the name of long-term prosperity.
Tuitt had a career year himself the last time he played, in 2020, and finally looked to be in full bloom, reaching the peak of his potential, which had been seen in him since his rookie season. The team, and his teammates, were hopeful that he would join them again this year, but life had a different plan for him.
He will still be in their lives, but his absence created room for Ogunjobi to get his chance in the black and gold. We probably won’t see a whole lot of him until the regular season, but that’s fine by me as long as he does what he needs to do when it needs doing.