Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 season is over, the team finishing above .500 but failing to make the postseason, we turn our attention to the offseason and everything that means. One thing that it means is that some stock evaluations are going to start taking on broader contexts, reflecting on a player’s development, either positively or negatively, over the course of the season. Other evaluations will reflect only one immediate event or trend. The nature of the evaluation, whether short-term or long-term, will be noted in the reasoning section below.
Player: DL Larry Ogunjobi
Stock Value: Even
Reasoning: The veteran defensive lineman signed a one-year deal with the Steelers in the middle of the offseason after the Chicago Bears backed out of a more substantial three-year contract, balking at a foot injury that ended his previous season during a breakout year. His one season was not revelatory, but solid, and perhaps only proved that he was relatively healthy despite frequently missing practices.
How has Larry Ogunjobi’s stock shifted since the Chicago Bears rescinded a three-year, $40.5 million contract offer all the way back in the middle of March? Will NFL teams view him as an eight-figures-a-year defensive lineman after the season he had in Pittsburgh?
Let’s start with the stat line. He missed only one game, finishing the year with 48 tackles, including seven for loss. He had just 1.5 sacks, though with a respectable 11 quarterback hits. He recorded no batted passes nor forced fumbles, though those have never been much of a part of his repertoire.
He also missed numerous practices throughout the season, virtually on a weekly basis, frequently listed with a toe injury. Occasionally, he would miss most or perhaps even an entire week’s worth of practice but still show up to play on Sunday.
And by and large, he played well for the Steelers. He’s certainly the best defensive end they’ve had in a while not named Cameron Heyward or Stephon Tuitt. But was he worth $8 million in value through his play in 2022? And what value would he bring in 2023?
Ogunjobi had a breakout season in his one year with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2021, notably playing in a 4-3 scheme. He finished that year with seven sacks, but suffered a foot injury in the postseason that he was still rehabbing into training camp, and of which the Steelers were well aware when signing.
Nevertheless, he was a good player in Pittsburgh, and I believe played above what his final stat line looked like. He certainly was more than capable of finishing the season with four times as many sacks, if not more.
He will presumably be healthier in 2023 and have the benefit of a full, unencumbered offseason, but will that be in Pittsburgh, and at what price? I think the Steelers hope to re-sign him, and I’m not convinced that his market isn’t worse than this time a year ago. If they can re-sign him on a three-year, $24 million contract, I’m sure they would jump on that. Assuming his price is even that high. But they very rarely do one-year deals with their own free agents, certainly not starters.