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Larry Ogunjobi cites Cam Heyward, Mike Tomlin for what he described as a “special” 2022

The Pittsburgh Steelers defensive front has a tough decision to make when it comes to Larry Ogujobi.

New Orleans Saints v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are an organization who prides itself on being the standard. No, not living to Mike Tomlin’s famous saying “the standard is the standard”, but the standard of how things should be run. This starts at the ownership level and bleeds into the day-to-day activities.

For Larry Ogunjobi, he has bounced around the AFC North, starting his career with the Cleveland Browns before playing a season for the Cincinnati Bengals before landing in Pittsburgh in 2022. Following the season, Ogunjobi realized just how special the Steelers were, especially when it came to the defense.

“It’s definitely a special group with Cam (Heyward), T.J. (Watt), Tyson (Alualu), (Chris) Wormley, Alex (Highsmith),” Ogunjobi told the Steelers official website. “It’s a really good group of men. When you’ve got Cam and Tyson, who have 25 years of NFL experience between the two of them, you have someone there who has seen it and done it for a long time at a high level. The questions you can ask them, the leadership they provide, the understanding of it and just the energy.”

Ultimately, what Ogunjobi enjoyed the most about the aforementioned players were how they were as organic as they come. And that means something to Ogunjobi who will be a free agent again when the new league year starts on March 13th.

“Sometimes it’s hard to find organic people, but those guys are truly organic and real. They want the best for everybody around them.” Ogunjobi said. “All of the guys in the locker room are like that and when guys are like that, they play for each other. That’s how you can turn around 2-6 to 9-8. It was a testament to the men in the room.”

Another reason why Ogunjobi didn’t just love the organization, but why he saw the team have a drastic turnaround, was Mike Tomlin. With the man they call Coach T, there are no secrets. No one is wondering what he’ll be like, even after starting 2-6 this past season.

“It’s his level of detail and understanding, his leadership,” said Ogunjobi. “He played a pivotal role not only in my own personal development, but the development of the entire team, along with the coaches, support staff and ownership. It’s a first-class organization that’s been run the right way for a really long time.

“When we started off 2-6, Coach T said something in the meetings that he is not going to be a moving target. Any time you want to be great at anything, consistency is the key. He was always consistent, always coming into the morning meetings with the energy, sending a message that we’re still in this thing regardless of where we are right now. He always said we’re not going to blink. He told us to smile in the face of adversity. Stand tall, find a way to get it done because the only people that can fix it was us. And that was one of the important messages. That is just the type of person he has been for everybody to just watch and emulate.

“You know he’s not going to play around with you. He’s going to keep it completely honest, but I think that’s what you need to do. You need clarity, cohesion, honesty, because when you go through relationships, real conversations, it leaves room for real growth. I think that’s really important.”

For Ogunjobi, his individual season wasn’t riddled with a ridiculous stat line, instead, it was a testament to his persistence and ability to overcome injury. Throughout the season Ogunjobi had several ailments keep him out of practice, but he didn’t let it deter him from proving his value.

“Sometimes you just have to be resilient and trust your process,” said Ogunjobi. “There’s obviously ups and downs. Seasons can play out a whole bunch of different ways. You take it one day at a time, stay focused, trust your process and just find ways to get better each and every day.

“For me personally, I continue to trust my process to find ways to get better. Regardless of the ups and downs of the season, when you’re resilient and trust your own process, things find a way of working out.”

Will the Steelers be able to retain Ogunjobi in 2023? A lot will depend on how much he can acquire on the open market. If the Steelers could give him a fair, but team-friendly, contract, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility he could return. Keeping Ogunjobi would bolster a defensive front which will need an injection of youth this offseason. In other words, he could be a foundational piece on a transitioning defense.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the 2023 NFL offseason.