After a relatively quiet day Monday, general manager Omar Khan and the Pittsburgh Steelers got active on Day Two of the legal tampering period. Today, the Steelers agreed to a two-year deal with guard Nate Herbig from the New York Jets and re-signed safety Damontae Kazee and defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi.
Khan decided to attack more Steelers’ needs giving the team a little more room to maneuver during the NFL Draft. Since these moves have been made, Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski has given a grade for each of them with the Steelers receiving relatively positive marks.
Starting with the team’s first move of the day — the deal with Herbig — Sobleski gave Pittsburgh a B+.
“While primarily a guard, the four-year veteran does present some flexibility at all three interior spots,” wrote Sobleski. “His addition could push incumbent left guard Kevin Dotson out of the starting lineup.”
Pittsburgh was lucky last season with no starters on the offensive line missing a game. That won’t happen next season and having Kevin Dotson or Herbig as a back-up guard at either right guard or left guard, depending on injuries, is huge. Herbig is a serviceable player and with Dotson’s up-and-down play over his career Herbig may be able to snag a starting spot.
Moving onto the Steelers’ second move of the day, which was re-signing Kazee, Sobleski wasn’t so high on it giving the team a C+ for the two-year deal.
“The veteran defensive back joined the Steelers last offseason and started four games at free safety,” he wrote. “Considering Terrell Edmunds remains a free agent, Kazee’s retention gives the Steelers another back-line option alongside Minkah Fitzpatrick.”
Kazee is a ballhawk in a ballhawk secondary. An injury and suspension limited Kazee’s time this year – he played in only nine games — but when he was on the field, he was productive. Kazee finished the season with two interceptions and two pass breakups. Better against the pass than Edmunds, Kazee only allowed a completion percentage 63.6% and had a PFF grade of 81.
A C+ grade in bringing back a player who excelled whenever on the field seems a bit harsh, especially someone who led the league in interceptions back in 2018. As long as Kazee stays healthy I expect him to make a big impact on the defense next season.
Finally the Steelers’ latest move on Day Two of legal tampering was re-signing Ogunjobi to a three-year, $28.5 million contract. Sobleski gave Pittsburgh an A for the move, citing Ogunjobi’s strong presence on a weak defensive line.
“Much like Kazee, Larry Ogunjobi joined the Steelers last year with something to prove,” he wrote. “After a failed physical with the Chicago Bears that cost the defensive lineman a major free-agent deal, Ogunjobi signed a one-year deal to play in the Steel City and proved himself as a vital contributor to a thin front.”
While Ogunjobi didn’t have the pass rush numbers you’d like — only 1.5 sacks and zero hurries in 2022, the two lowest numbers of his career — he was great against the run and helped turn the Steelers’ rush defense around after a putrid 2021.
The hope is that he stays healthy and returns to his pre-2021 form, when he showed a great ability to rush the passer and defend the run. If the Steelers can get that they’ll be overjoyed, but at the least they re-signed a player to help on a thin defensive line.
Tomorrow is the start of the new league year and NFL free agency officially opens at 4 PM/EST. All the moves Pittsburgh has made so far should become official tomorrow. The Steelers still have some needs to fill, so it will the interesting what moves they make in free agency, and which positions they’ll address in the NFL Draft.