The Steelers got hit with some heavy news with the retirement of Stephon Tuitt on Wednesday. One of the more underrated players in the NFL, Tuitt was dominant when he was on. Now, while the Steelers drafted DeMarvin Leal, they could look for some veteran help on the free agent market to help.
Akiem Hicks could have been one of those guys. However, he reached a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is now off the market. The defensive line market, as it stands though, is one that is extremely healthy. Still, there is one name that sticks out above the rest in the crop.
That player is former Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi. Ogunjobi’s journeyman movements might give some people pause. But the UNC Charlotte product has churned out repeated strong seasons in the NFL, and is plenty great value for the Steelers at this stage in the offseason. Just looking at his resume, the fit makes sense.
Ogunjobi started out in the league as more of a pure nose tackle, but has since worked anywhere between a 0 technique or a true nose tackle all the way down to a 4i, which the Steelers use a lot of. In other words, his versatility is something that should be captivating to the Steelers. They sometimes like to move their guys around, in sub packages, Ogunjobi’s experience at 3-technique will come in handy.
Moreover, Ogunjobi is a fantastic run defender in a group that is almost putting too much weight on Tyson Alualu. The defensive line could use a big run stopper outside of him, and Ogunjobi’s heavy hands and expert use of leverage allow him to take on blocks, stack and shed them, and make consistently strong plays in the running game. He is a deterrent in the trenches, and Pittsburgh needs one of of those guys in their front seven.
As a pass rusher, Ogunjobi has grown into being a pocket issue. His power and twitchy first step allow him to push the pocket back and create havoc for offensive lineman and quarterbacks. He has developed a nice array of moves since coming into the NFL, including a cross chop-rip combination that has earned him pressures and sacks.
The big concern with Ogunjobi is simply his injury. He suffered a foot injury during Cincinnati’s wild card round game against the Las Vegas Raiders. That injury required surgery. That wouldn’t be all that bad, but he was slated to sign with the Chicago Bears back in March, and they wiped off that signing with a failed physical designation.
The question now becomes if that injury has healed enough to where he could pass a physical. He 17 weeks post surgery on that injury. If there are still widespread lingering issues in his healing, Ogunjobi likely may not sign until those get cleaned up.
However, if he is healthy, this one is a no-brainer. Ogunjobi should be the first call that goes out if the Steelers can feel confident enough in his foot. At the very least, get him examined until he comes to town. Eddie Goldman, Sheldon Richardson, and Ndamukong Suh are some other names that could make sense in that case. But target number one should be Ogunjobi.