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Mike Tomlin talks Steelers new free agents, and how Larry Ogunjobi’s best is yet to come

Mike Tomlin speaks for the first time since the season ended at the league owners meeting.

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team who has undergone a massive amount of change throughout the course of the 2023 offseason. Whether you are talking about free agents lost or gained, the one person you haven’t heard from is head coach Mike Tomlin.

Unlike almost all NFL coaches, Tomlin doesn’t speak at the NFL Scouting Combine. Omar Khan, the team’s current General Manager (GM), fielded questions, but Tomlin doesn’t speak in the offseason until the league meetings.

Those meetings started this past weekend, and Tomlin made his rounds with the media to answer questions about a variety of topics. One such topic which should intrigue fans were his comments on recently re-signed defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi.

Ogunjobi signed a 3-year deal with the Steelers this offseason, and many people thought it was a steep price for the production Ogunjobi had in 2022. However, in Tomlin’s eyes, the best is yet to come for Ogunjobi.

“I don’t believe that you did,” Tomlin said when asked if Ogunjobi’s best play was in 2022. “I think that’s the perspective that I have. I think that’s the perspective that he has. And I think that makes both of us excited about his return and what that might mean. I just think that there’s benefit in him being here and knowing what to expect and having been a lap around the track and to go through an offseason where he’s not rehabilitating coming off of a surgery as exciting prospects, as well.”

The signing of Ogunjobi was far from the only news which has graced the Steelers organization this offseason. The organization also added several pieces to their offensive line. Even with all five of the 2022 linemen returning, Tomlin was determined to bring in experience and create competition among the group.

“We just thought the more starter-capable and starting experience-like guys, we could add to the group we had an opportunity to create competition and raise our floor,” Tomlin said. “I think we were fortunate last year. The five primary starters made every football game, so our depth was not challenged.

“We just felt like it was appropriate to create competition and you do that with capable people, specifically guys who are capable with experience. We’ll get those guys in a competitive camp situation and come up with the best five.”

Creating competition is always a good thing, but being able to successfully run the ball is the ultimate goal. The key is figuring out which offensive linemen will help them the most in this regard. After all, a quarterback’s best friend is a good running game.

“A good running game aids the quarterback, particularly a young quarterback,” Tomlin said. “I don’t think we were bashful about our intentions there. And we won’t be moving forward.”

Outside of the offensive line, the Steelers’ inside linebackers have also undergone a makeover. Not just in players added, but also within the coaching staff. Nonetheless, Tomlin said his ultimate goal was to provide veteran players who are capable of stepping into their roles with ease.

“It is a veteran-guys-that-are-capable plan,” Tomlin said. “E Rob, we are highly familiar with since he came out of (the University of) Houston. We were down there at his pro day and just liked his play demeanor. And that has not changed over the seven years that has been his career. So we’re glad to add him into the fold. And Holcomb is an athletic guy. He can run. He can do a lot of things. He’s put together nice body work in Washington.”

The other big move was the team signing Patrick Peterson on the first day of the negotiating period. Tomlin spoke glowingly of the future Hall of Fame cornerback.

“The intangible quality, his football character, his love and passion for the game,” Tomlin said of what made Peterson attractive. “I think that is something to be learned from. Pat obviously is a guy that brings up and beyond his resume and play came from playmaking capabilities, which is an asset to football teams. When guys are living examples of what to do, how to go about this professional football business, I just think we all benefit from that and he is that.”

Could the Steelers not be done? Could there be more moves ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft? Tomlin didn’t close the door on those things happening...

“For us, we don’t view free agency and the draft any different,” Tomlin said. “We’ve got two major ways of improving our team and acquiring talent, and we respect both components. We utilize information for one as it pertains to the other.”

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.