Steel Curtain Network: A Pittsburgh Steelers podcast

What does a healthy Larry Ogunjobi bring to the 2023 Steelers?

This past offseason Mike Tomlin was asked by the media if the Pittsburgh Steelers fan base has seen the best of Larry Ogunjobi.

Tomlin’s response was simple.

They haven’t.

The fact of the matter is Ogunjobi has been banged up since he was signed to a one-year contract last offseason when Omar Khan took over as the Steelers General Manager (GM). Last season Ogunjobi battle foot, ankle and back injuries which kept him on the injury report, but not out of games.

This got me thinking, as often happens when I listen to Tomlin addressing media questions, what does a healthy Larry Ogunjobi even look like? If Steelers fans didn’t see it last year, what exactly does this equate to, as it pertains to on-field performance?

Before we dive into the statistics of Ogunjobi’s NFL career, let’s get a little background information on him first. After all, I didn’t know much about Ogunjobi prior to him signing with the Steelers, and that was after he played his entire career in the AFC North.

Ogunjobi was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. Ogunjobi spent his rookie contract in Cleveland before signing a one-year contract with the Cincinnati Bengals. While having arguably his best season as a professional in Cincinnati, Ogunjobi injured his foot in the Wild Card round of the AFC Playoffs. The injury required surgery.

Following the season, as a free agent, Ogunjobi was slated to sign a 3-year deal with the Chicago Bears before he failed his physical. He remained unsigned until the Steelers came calling.

Like Chris Wormley last year, a player who suffers a serious injury requiring surgery at the end of a regular season, especially in a contract year, is devastating. It can not just derail the ensuing season, but potentially derail their career. The fact Ogunjobi was able to play in 2022, and play well enough to earn a multi-year deal with the Steelers, is something which should be noted.

But what about the stats? What does a healthy Larry Ogunjobi even look like, from a statistical perspective?

Let’s take a look…

2017 (CLE): 14 Games / 32 Tackles / 4 TFL / 1 Sack / 3 QB Hits

2018 (CLE): 16 Games / 52 Tackles / 10 TFL / 5.5 Sacks / 15 QB Hits

2019 (CLE): 15 Games / 50 Tackles / 10 TFL / 5.5 Sacks / 13 QB Hits

2020 (CLE): 15 Games / 46 Tackles / 5 TFL / 2.5 Sacks / 6 QB Hits

2021 (CIN): 16 Games / 49 Tackles / 12 TFL / 7 Sacks / 16 QB Hits

2022 (PIT): 16 Games / 48 Tackles / 7 TFL / 1.5 Sacks / 11 QB Hits

To be completely honest, when I compiled these statistics, I was expecting to see a history of injuries, or just blatant ineffectiveness in certain seasons. But I didn’t see that. Ogunjobi has been relatively available, and has had a very similar level of effectiveness throughout his entire career.

So let’s go back to what a healthy Ogunjobi looks like for the 2023 Steelers…

If I had to try and guess, and it’s merely a guess, the numbers you see in his lone season with Cincinnati before his foot injury would be the player Tomlin is speaking about, and fans are hoping to see. A player who, when healthy, isn’t just racking up tackles, but is a force in the backfield.

In that 2021 season, Ogunjobi’s 12 TFL tied the team lead, and his 7 sacks were a career high. If the Steelers could get that type of production from him, along with his double-digit QB hits, not only will the 3-year deal he earned look to be a smart move, but it would be the closest thing Cam Heyward has had as a wing man since Stephon Tuitt retired. It would also allow the team to utilize players like Keeanu Benton and DeMarvin Leal as they see fit, and not necessarily in certain positions and places they might not be best suited for playing.

What does a healthy Larry Ogunjobi look like? Let’s hope we all find out this season, and it’s glorious.

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