With the Steelers’ 2023 offseason underway following a disappointing season that came up just short of the playoffs, it’s time to begin reloading, through free agency, through the draft, and perhaps even through trades.
This is 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 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: Larry Ogunjobi’s reported new deal is too big of a gamble on his health.
Explanation: The seventh-year veteran defensive lineman is coming off of a statistical down year, during which he played on a one-year, $8 million deal. He is to sign a three-year contract worth over $9 million per season. He spent most of 2022 rehabbing a foot injury and dealt with minor injuries throughout the year.
I think most would acknowledge that the deal the Steelers gave Ogunjobi is greater than they anticipated. You don’t often make more money a year after recording just 1.5 sacks, even if sacks aren’t the be-all-end-all statistic for a defensive end.
The reality is that the Steelers didn’t have many options, so re-signing Ogunjobi was the move they were set on making. As a result, they overpaid, giving the player and his agent the power in the deal and getting the shorter end of the stick.
Ogunjobi spent a lot of time on the injury reports last season, and often didn’t even practice more than a day per week. There’s no question that his health had an impact on his level of play. He might report to training camp healthier this year, but can he stay healthy during the season for the next three years? He may not miss a ton of games but his performance could suffer.
The deal that Ogunjobi is supposed to be signing is worth less than the deal he agreed to with the Chicago Bears a year ago before they failed him on his physical and rescinded the offer. He’s still the same player who signed that deal.
He doesn’t have some lengthy history of his body taking a beating. He’s played in 92 games over his six seasons, and one of the games he missed was due to rest in 2021. It’s true that he’s had some misfortune lately, but that doesn’t mean that will continue.
The reality is that the Steelers need Ogunjobi or someone like him. They would have had a massive hole in the starting lineup if he walked, and there’s no reason to believe that he can’t be better in 2023 than he was in 2022, which was already still good.