2023 Offseason Questions: How Does Ogunjobi’s Return Affect Urgency Of Addressing DE?

The Steelers are now in their offseason after failing to reach the playoffs in 2022, coming up just a game short of sneaking in as the seventh seed. They needed help in week 18 and only got some of it, so instead they sat home and watched the playoffs with the rest of us.

On tap is figuring out how to be on the field in January and February instead of being a spectator. They started out 2-6, digging a hole that proved too deep to dig out of even if they managed to go 7-2 in the second half of the year.

Starting from the end of the regular season and leading all the way up to the beginning of the 2023 season, there are plenty of questions that need answered, starting with who will be the offensive coordinator. Which free agents will be kept? Who might be let go due to their salary? How might they tackle free agency with this new front office? We’ll try to frame the conversation in relevant ways as long as you stick with us throughout this offseason, as we have for many years.

Question: How does the Steelers’ multi-year deal with Larry Ogunjobi affect the urgency of adding to the defensive end position?

Assuming he can remain healthy, there is good reason to think that Larry Ogunjobi, currently 28 years old, should be one of the Steelers’ starting defensive ends for the next three seasons. After all, he just signed a three-year contract to stay in Pittsburgh.

Cameron Heyward is also under contract for the next two seasons, and at least as of 2022 was still playing at a Pro Bowl level. They used a third-round draft pick last year to draft DeMarvin Leal as well to add depth to the position.

So where does that leave the Steelers as far as the defensive end position is concerned for the 2023 NFL Draft? They have the two men who will be starting for at least the next year, perhaps two or more years, as well as a young, developing pedigreed prospect they control for the next three.

Longtime fans will immediately recall the team using a first-round pick on Ziggy Hood in 2009 and another two years later on Heyward, ostensibly when they still had their starters in place at the time. These were seen as moves that were planned for the future, both it was intended for both of them to sit.

Even the Steelers no longer expect to keep their top rookies on the bench for very long anymore, so that’s one thing we have to consider. With Heyward and Ogunjobi secured for perhaps the next two years, how vital is it, say, to land a first-round talent to groom into a starting position this year? Is it best left until some future year, whether 2024 or 2025, when it might be more immediately clear that he would have a role right away?

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