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How Concerned Should Steelers be With Larry Ogunjobi?



Steelers DL Larry Ogunjobi Preseason
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (99) defends during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022, in Pittsburgh, PA. (AP Photo/Matt Durisko)

PITTSBURGH — The Larry Ogunjobi injury trend is not suitable for the Steelers.

A season ago, Ogunjobi dealt with year-long toe and knee injuries that left him up and down for most of the season. He has practiced three times since August 9th and has not logged a full practice since his foot injury in training camp. It’s a concerning trend for the Steelers, who gave Ogunjobi a three-year, $28.7 million extension to start alongside Cam Heyward. What is the tricky situation for the Steelers in the offseason? They had to address the position alongside Heyward, but Ogunjobi represented a risk.

But more compounded this direction from Ogunjobi over his first year with the Steelers.

Some Concerning Trends With Ogunjobi

Last year, Pittsburgh signed Ogunjobi, coming off foot surgery from a severe lisfranc injury. Early on in free agency, Ogunjobi earned a big deal from the Chicago Bears but failed his physical. That foot injury was directly related to that fact, and the Bears never circled back around. Instead, Ogunjobi signed a one-year deal with Pittsburgh following Stephon Tuitt’s retirement.

When Ogunjobi started healthy last year, he played at a high level. In October, Ogunjobi dealt with a back injury. He missed one lone game with a knee injury. But the knee injury, and later on a toe injury, brought up consistent pain that Ogunjobi played through. As a result, he never ended up healthy.

There would be weeks when Ogunjobi would miss practice, log a limited practice on Friday, and still play on Sunday. It’s admirable, but Ogunjobi’s injuries raise much concern since it already popped up this early in the season.

Steelers DT Larry Ogunjobi

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi at training camp, Aug. 8, 2023. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Conundrum

Ogunjobi is available. That has ended up the case for most of his career. He missed two games in his rookie season and then two games for the rest of his tenure in Cleveland. All in all, Ogunjobi has only missed five games over his seven-year NFL career. It’s a pretty sterling resume for most NFL players. The way to say it is that there is little reason to believe Ogunjobi is outwardly injury-prone.

But his injuries rack up and significantly affect his performance. When Ogunjobi suffered his knee injury, he was on his way to having a pretty good year. Even after his back injury against the Bills, he came back against the Buccaneers and wrecked shop. Before the game against the Browns in the season’s final week, Ogunjobi had 11 pressures from the time he injured his knee in Week 7 to Week 18. Before that, in the previous six weeks, he had 11 pressures.

He broke out in his final game against the Browns for an absurd eight pressures. That flashed the type of player he could be, and maybe he was starting to feel better at that point. But the stats show it out. From Weeks 1 through 6, he averaged 1.8 pressures per game. Average that out, and Ogunjobi would have racked up about 31 pressures the entire season. Following the knee injury, the production dipped from Weeks 7 through 17 to 1.2 pressures per game. That’s a stark difference.

For an up-and-down year, the Steelers need Ogunjobi to remain healthy, even if they feel good about the depth they have in that front. Ogunjobi has game-wrecker ability when he is healthy and raring to go. The injuries remove the explosiveness and power that makes him so effective. Pittsburgh needs a healthy Ogunjobi to make this front go from just very good to elite.

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