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Steelers Free Agent Additions: DL Larry Ogunjobi 2021 Run Defense Data

The Pittsburgh Steelers had a busy free agency, including the signing of Larry Ogunjobi, and today I wanted to provide some data context to what he provided last season in run defense along with Pittsburgh’s defensive lineman as well. Let’s get right to it, starting with 2021 run snaps and average tackle depth on such plays from PFF to get a gauge of the position comparatively.

Cameron Heyward provided the most snaps of the players we’re focused on (395), which was also the second most in the NFL. His average tackle depth came out at 2.2 (T-29th), a strong number considering the snap counts and struggles around him in run defense for Pittsburgh last season. Chris Wormley’s average tackle depth is an example, tied for the second most yards at 3.8 out of 80 players with at least 200 run snaps. He was on the field for 324 plays, which was 15th in the league.

Ogunjobi fared the best out of the highlighted players with a 1.9 average depth of tackle number that tied for 19th league wide. His opportunities were below the mean with 238 run snaps (T-50th), important context considering he was used over twice as often in passing situations.

Now let’s look at types of tackles, solo versus assisted tackles against the run:

Heyward capitalized on his high usage with the third most solo run tackles in the NFL, along with providing 21 assists which tied for fifth. Ogunjobi had 28 solo tackles which was just below the mean and tied for 39th, along with 12 assisted run tackles which was at the mean for the position (T-36th). These are encouraging results considering his lower run snap counts. Wormley was just above the mean with 29 solo run tackles (T-36th) but below average in the assisted variety (8) which tied with several players at 58th.

Next, I wanted to see how the players fared in a ‘hit or miss’ type view with stop percentage, which uses the successful play rates formula (less than 40% on first down, 50% or less on second down, and third or fourth down plays kept without a first down or touchdown) and missed tackle percentage:

This visual really highlights Ogunjobi’s 2021 highs and lows in the run game, as many on the Steelers Depot team have discussed and written about. Here is a film room from Jonathan Heittritter that gives us great context that this visual and data concur with. Missed tackles are the bad news, tying for the second worst rate in the NFL last season (18.4%). On the tackles he made, he provided a solid stop percentage of 8.5 that actually tied with Heyward (T-26th). Here’s to hoping Ogunjobi can improve his tackle rate and provide more of the latter in the black and gold.

Wormley was on the other end of the spectrum, with a below the mean stop percentage of 5.7 (61st) and a strong missed tackle result of 5.1% that ranked 17th in the NFL. Heyward only missed 1.4% of his run tackles for the third rank league-wide, very impressive on his number of snaps.

To close, let’s look at a more total view of how the players fared in the run game with PFF run defense grades along with points above above replacement (the difference between the player’s points above average and a replacement level player in the same facet of the game) from Sports Info Solutions (SIS):

These data points provide similar plot points from the previous graph for the players we’re focused on. This emphasizing what Dave Bryan has been suggesting regarding Ogunjobi’s PFF run defense grade, which is a seemingly high emphasis on the missed tackle rate. Looking at the SIS stat, we see the outlook is not as glim in totality. In fact, his PAR result of 5.1 (13th) was barely above Heyward’s (T-14th), which highlights the formers boom nature (on lower opportunities). Heyward is obviously the better player and had the NFL’s top rank in PFF run defense grade (90). Wormley’s best result was a 70 PFF run defense grade (12th) but had a negative result in PAR (-5.8) that was the second worst in the NFL.

In regards to the data for 2021, Heyward was above the mean in all aspects of the data as expected. The data really showcases the strengths and weaknesses of Ogunjobi in the run game last season, with his best results being average tackle depth, stop percentage, PAR, and was at the mean in number of tackles. The other side of the coin is missed opportunities that he can hopefully improve upon, with his below average results in snaps, missed tackle percentage, and PFF run defense grade. Wormley fared best in snaps, missed tackle rate, and PFF run defense grade with his lower marks coming in average depth of tackle, stop percentage, and PAR. Here’s to hoping the defensive line can stay healthy (including Tyson Alualu and others), since it was an obvious reason for the run defense struggles last season. One thing’s for sure, the 2022 Steelers sure need this defense to step up and it all starts up front.

What are your takeaways from the data? Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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