With the Steelers’ 2023 offseason underway following a disappointing season that came up just short of reaching the playoffs, it’s time to begin reloading, through the free agency process, through the draft, and perhaps even through trade.
This is now a young team on the offensive side of the ball, though one getting older on defense. Both sides could stand to be supplemented robustly, including in the trenches—either one. Changes have been made to the coaching staff, even if not all of the desired ones, as the roster continues to renew with the weeks ticking by.
These sorts of uncertainties are what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
Topic Statement: Defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi will prove to be worth his new contract.
Explanation: After playing on a one-year, $8 million deal in 2022, Ogunjobi re-signed with the Steelers on a three-year deal paying him close to $10 million per season. A year ago, coming off a very successful season in Cincinnati, he originally had an agreement with the Chicago Bears for a three-year, $40.5 million deal that fell through due to a failed physical.
We haven’t seen the best of Larry Ogunjobi yet in the black and gold, and that shouldn’t be any surprise. While he played pretty well overall last season, with a decent amount of ‘flash’, it was clear that he was never as healthy as he should be, and that had lingering effects throughout the entire year.
He spent most of the offseason rehabbing the injury he had suffered during the Bengals’ playoff run. It’s the only reason the Steelers were even in a position to be in his market, after all, and in June, no less, after having initially been viewed as one of the top defensive linemen in the free agency class.
Ogunjobi might not have another seven-sack season like he did in Cincinnati, but he does have that capability. We already know that the Steelers’ defense is capable of producing 10-sack linemen. Cameron Heyward has done it three times and counting, and Stephon Tuitt did it once.
While Ogunjobi’s career history doesn’t give one much reason to hold long-term concerns about his on-field availability, we do have to wait and see what he is going to look like in 2023. Foot injuries can be really tricky at any position. They can be really problematic in a leverage space like the trenches.
Aside from that, a 3-4 defense is not what ideally suits Ogunjobi’s skill set. He is best featured in a 4-3 front, and a 3-4 doesn’t sufficiently replicate that with more lightweight ends in the form of outside linebackers. He should play better than he did a year ago, but will he play at an eight-figures-a-year level? Unlikely.