It’s been a rather eventual offseason to date for the Pittsburgh Steelers and GM Omar Khan, including a number of signings in free agency. Those include the likes of cornerback Patrick Peterson and interior offensive lineman Isaac Seumalo, which are really the headliner moves for the Black and Gold.
There’s one move that continues to fly under the radar for the Steelers this offseason, one that hasn’t quite gotten enough love. The re-signing of veteran defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi to a three-year, $28.75 million deal early in free agency ensures that the Steelers retain a key part of the defensive front for the foreseeable future.
For ESPN’s Brooke Pryor, the re-signing of Ogunjobi is the Steelers’ top “under the radar” move of the offseason, which she highlighted Monday as part of ESPN’s post-free agency power rankings where the Steelers ranked No. 13 overall.
“Ogunjobi took a one-year prove-it deal with the Steelers a year ago after a failed physical derailed his plans to sign a multi-year contract in Chicago,” Pryor writes regarding Ogunjobi’s re-signing. “Although Ogunjobi battled a series of nagging injuries throughout the season, he proved his worth, especially in the run defense, and earned a three-year, $28.7 million contract this offseason. He was key in bolstering a run defense that ranked dead last in 2021, filling the hole left by Stephon Tuitt after his early retirement. With Ogunjobi’s help, the Steelers had a top-10 rushing defense in 2022.”
Ogunjobi had a quiet statistical year in the Steel City, recording 48 tackles and just 1.5 sacks to go along with seven tackles for a loss while playing 63% of the snaps. He will turn just 29 years old in June and should have been a key off-season priority for the Steelers.
Turns out, he was.
Though Ogunjobi wasn’t his game-wrecking self for much of the season, he was still a rather solid piece in the trenches for the Steelers. That was especially the case in the second half of the season after outside linebacker T.J. Watt made his return to the lineup, lining up next to Ogunjobi.
For the season, Ogunjobi recorded the second-highest grade of his career from Pro Football Focus with a 61.7 overall, which trailed his rookie-season mark of 78.4 in Cleveland in 2017. Ogunjobi also played the fewest snaps of his career since his rookie season, tallying just 636 snaps in 2022.
In those 636 snaps, Ogunjobi rushed the passer on 384 of them, generating 30 total pressures opposite Pro Bowler Cameron Heyward. Nineteen of those 30 pressures came once Watt was back in the lineup, including a season-high eight pressures in the season finale against the Cleveland Browns and right guard Wyatt Teller and center Ethan Pocic.
For his career, Ogunjobi has 277 tackles and 23 sacks along with 48 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles while spending time with the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, and the Steelers.
He got off to a slow start early in the season as the Steelers brought him along slowly in training camp and the preseason as he worked back from his foot injury. The veteran defensive tackle missed just one game in 2022 — the Week 8 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on the road — and was largely dependable when on the field, generating at least two pressures in 10 of the 16 games he played.
While the contract numbers might look a bit steep for Ogunjobi, at least at first blush, retaining that piece defensively was a huge move for the Steelers overall, though depth in the trenches still needs to be addressed.