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ESPN grades the Steelers new contract with Larry Ogunjobi as mediocre

The Pittsburgh Steelers invested heavily in Larry Ogunjobi, and ESPN isn’t buying the move.

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been active in the first week of the NFL’s free agency period. No longer are they going to just sit back and wait to see who could potentially fall in their laps. Instead, under new General Manager (GM) Omar Khan, they have gone out and signed the players they deem to be a priority.

In case you forgot, here are the players the team has signed since the start of the NFL’s negotiating window opened a week ago:

  • CB Patrick Peterson
  • S Damontae Kazee
  • OG Nate Herbig
  • DL Larry Ogunjobi
  • LB Cole Holecomb
  • LB Elanden Roberts
  • OG Isaac Seumalo

Most of these signings were deemed to be positives by the fan base, but for the national pundits, there was one signing they weren’t exactly ecstatic about. That would be the 3-year deal given to Larry Ogunjobi, and the pundits would be those at ESPN.

Take a look at how ESPN graded the Steelers deal with the veteran defensive lineman, as well as how it could impact the team’s 2023 NFL Draft plans:

Steelers to re-sign DT Larry Ogunjobi

The deal: Three years, $28.75 million

Grade: C

Defensive tackles around the league are (rightfully) getting paid, but I don’t see it with Ogunjobi. He had seven sacks for the Bengals in 2021, but his 7% pass rush win rate ranked 39th out of 53 qualifying defensive tackles, which suggests those sacks might have been a fluke.

For the Steelers last season, Ogunjobi’s win rate dropped even further to 6%, which ranked 46th among 54 defensive tackles, and he had just 1.5 sacks. His 36% run stop win rate is above average but not exceptional — he ranked 22nd of 68 qualifying tackles. That’s just not a profile of a player I would want to be paying real money for, which is what the Steelers just did. — Walder

What this means for the 2023 draft: The signing of Ogunjobi shouldn’t shift Pittsburgh’s focus away from continuing to add players along the defensive line. The Steelers’ two biggest areas of need are offensive line and cornerback. With seven picks total — including two inside of the top 32 — general manager Omar Khan will have an opportunity to fortify both spots throughout the draft. At outside corner, Joey Porter Jr. (Penn State) or Deonte Banks (Maryland) could make sense in Round 1. Both have physical traits the team has gravitated toward in the past.

Steelers fans know enough to believe what national sites like ESPN suggest about the deal, but you do have to wonder about Ogunjobi’s overall value after an injury-riddled season which saw him as a mainstay on the injury report almost weekly.

Nonetheless, the signing of Ogunjobi was a smart move as it pertains to the overall roster construction of the defense. Having Ogunjobi under contract will allow the Steelers to enter the draft with a Best Player Available (BPA) approach, rather than drafting specific positions based solely on need.

ESPN may not love the contract, but what ESPN often forgets is how the Steelers typically do things differently than the rest of the league. Everything from contract structure to how they utilize players on the field. Yes, Ogunjobi’s win rate wasn’t the best in 2022, but were the Steelers asking him to do that, or simply helping to alleviate pressure off fellow linemates, mainly Cam Heyward?

Something to consider before you allow ESPN’s own, and often singular, thoughts to permeate your brain when analyzing the Steelers’ offseason moves.

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.