Defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi spent the first five years of his career with the enemy, playing for the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals. Of course, the Pittsburgh Steelers need for veteran bodies in the defensive front rotation last season made the familiarity to bring in Ogunjobi a sensible decision.
For fans, the thought of playing for your team’s biggest rivals sounds downright blasphemous. But for players, it often comes down to fit, both schematically and culturally. Ogunjobi seems to have found a place in the NFL that gives him the best of both worlds in Pittsburgh. After his one-year contract was up, Ogunjobi was happy to re-sign with the Steelers this offseason.
“It felt natural,” Ogunjobi said in an interview with Missy Mathews via the team’s YouTube channel. “You know, I think they took great care of me.”
After an injury-plagued 2022 season in Pittsburgh, Ogunjobi’s first season in Pittsburgh came to a close as a bit of a disappointment. Despite starting 16 games, Ogunjobi only totaled seven tackles for loss, 1.5 of which were sacks – a far cry from the seven he had the year prior in Cincinnati. While schematically, Ogunjobi is certainly a fit, the production was lacking. But the Steelers were forgiving of Ogunjobi’s ordeal, giving him a three-year, $28.7 million contract in March.
“They understood my situation,” he said. “They always told me they weren’t nearsighted in this and that meant a lot to me, just coming from the situation I was in prior. But I mean, they welcomed me with open arms. They allowed me to develop and grow into a system.”
On the cultural side, Ogunjobi sees the Steelers as a fit, despite the rivalry. Chasing after Ben Roethlisberger and battling with the likes of Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro in the trenches for five years gave Ogunjobi just a taste of the standard and pride the Steelers play with. To be on the opposing side of the battle line doesn’t tell the whole story though, as Ogunjobi expressed that being a part of the culture in Pittsburgh painted a welcoming picture.
“Obviously, I’ve been rivals with them my whole career, so it’s kind of funny,” Ogunjobi said. “But being able to come here and, and see the, the culture and you know, what they’re building here, you, I understood that was special. It was something I wanted to be a part of.”
Heading into his seventh season, and now second with the Steelers, there’s no doubt that he and the franchise wish to see him back to the 2021 player that earned him a three-year deal worth $40.5 million total. With more depth across the line and a full offseason to return to health, Ogunjobi will at the very least be afforded the opportunity to return to form.