PITTSBURGH — The Steelers need help from everyone in the defensive line room, with Cam Heyward out for up to eight weeks due to core muscle surgery. Pittsburgh’s best interior defensive lineman is a massive loss for the team on paper and in practice, but they now have to play on without him if they want to make a run at the playoffs. While some of the younger guys, such as Keeanu Benton and DeMarvin Leal, will get the call-out for most of the week, the Steelers need help from the one proven game-wrecker in the room — Larry Ogunjobi.
Ogunjobi suffered a foot injury in August at training camp and has not felt 100% since then, but he played it out in the team’s Week 1 game. The same thing will happen against the Browns on Monday night, where Ogunjobi will have to play a huge role in shutting down Nick Chubb.
Take it from defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who knows the team needs to see something from Ogunjobi to get the train moving forward up front. While he had an up-and-down performance at times, Ogunjobi flashed some of the ability that made him a sought-after free agent when he left Cincinnati.
“Yeah, I think he had been limited. He showed some good stuff,” Austin said. “Again, I don’t think we can single out anybody really other than T.J. that really played well last week. We all have to do better. We’ll look at — for the amount of sample size we got from Larry without at practice, I was pleased with his effort. I was pleased with those things, but like anything, there’s a lot of things we can all do better.”
When he is healthy, Ogunjobi can be the playmaker the Steelers need now. He has solid burst off the line of scrimmage, outstanding balance, and the power element of his game pops off the tape. But so far, those injuries have held him back from being that version of himself in Pittsburgh. But with an extra week of rest, the Steelers hope to coax that version of Ogunjobi out.
Before the game against the Browns in the season’s final week, Ogunjobi had 11 pressures from when 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. It’s a good number for a defensive lineman who complements Heyward. But now, the Steelers need Ogunjobi to become more the main guy.