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Report: Steelers Hosting Free Agent DT Larry Ogunjobi

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Larry Ogunjobi

The Pittsburgh Steelers are hosting former Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi on a free agent visit on Tuesday, according to a report by Adam Schefter of ESPN.

The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Ogunjobi was expected to sign a three-year, $40.5 million free agent contract with the Chicago Bears earlier this offseason, but a failed physical scrapped that deal. The Steelers will be able to medically evaluate Ogunjobi on his visit. He also recently visited with the New York Jets, but did not get a contract.

Ogunjobi suffered a season-ending foot injury that required in Cincinnati’s wild card playoff game against the Las Vegas Raiders in January. It’s not clear if that injury is the reason for his failed physical.

The Steelers have a need on the defensive line after the retirement of Stephon Tuitt earlier this offseason. Tyson Alualu and Cam Heyward are the likely starters at two defensive line spots, with Chris Wormley, who filled in for Tuitt in 2021, likely manning the other spot at the moment.

With Tuitt’s retirement and saving money on Minkah Fitzpatrick’s contract extension, the Steelers have at least $11.25 million in usable cap space for the 2022 season. That’s slightly less than the $13.5 million average annual value contract that Ogunjobi agreed to with the Bears, but it’s unclear what the market for his services looks like in June after a failed physical.

Fellow former starters Star Lotulelei and Ndamukong Suh are also on the market, with defensive tackle looking like one of the deeper positions when it comes to still-available free agents. Suh recently said he’s not returning to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2022.

In 2021, Ogunjobi had the best statistical season of his career in his one season with the Bengals. Ogunjobi set career highs with seven sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hits. He also recorded 49 total tackles.

Originally a third-round pick of the Cleveland Browns out of Charlotte in 2017, Ogunjobi spent the first four seasons of his career with the Browns. He got significant playing time as rookie in 2017 and then assumed a starting role in 2018. He had 14.5 sacks, 29 tackles for loss and 37 quarterback hits with Cleveland. His best statistical season was in 2018, when he had 5.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, 13 quarterback hits, 52 tackles and a forced fumble.

Even without Tuitt, and Alualu, who missed most of the season with injury, the Steelers had the best pass rush in the NFL, leading the league in sacks, with the play of outside linebacker T.J. Watt leading the way.

But the team struggled against the run due to the absences. The Steelers finished 32nd in rushing yards allowed and 32nd in rushing yards per attempt.

Ogunjobi has been an above-average run defender in the past, getting positive marks for time in Cleveland, but his 2021 performance was panned by Pro Football Focus, which gave him a 38.9 rating against the run last season.

While players playing for multiple divisional rivals is more common than it once was, Ogunjobi’s entrance to the Steelers locker room could be contentious, thanks to his role in the Steelers-Browns skirmish that resulted in Myles Garrett hitting Mason Rudolph over the head with his helmet in 2019. Ogunjobi later backed Garrett’s assertion that Rudolph set the incident off by using a racial slur. Garrett, Ogunjobi and Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey were all suspended from the incident.

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