Tim Benz: Steelers should not cease including to protection with Larry Ogunjobi. One other place is in want

Now that the Steelers have spent much more cash on the protection by signing Larry OgunjobiI am certain that will regenerate the dialog concerning the disparity between how a lot the group is spending on protection versus how little the group is spending on offense.

So I’ve an concept of ​​what to do subsequent.

Signal one other man on protection. Particularly, an outdoor linebacker. One other model of Melvin Ingram, besides one that really needs to be right here.

At I’ve not too long ago said, I do not care concerning the offense-defense pay hole. There isn’t any wage cap for every particular person facet of the ball. I am glad they signed Ogunjobi. After what occurred final 12 months alongside the line of defense with out Stephon Tuitt, I embrace the notion of constructing depth there.

And I really feel the identical method concerning the exterior linebacker place. We additionally noticed how a lot the Steelers protection struggled when TJ Watt was out. He missed two full video games (the house loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and the highway defeat on the Los Angeles Chargers) on account of damage, and he both performed harm via video games (just like the regular-season losses in Inexperienced Bay and Kansas Metropolis) or missed chunks of some extra with in-game accidents (just like the losses to the Las Vegas Raiders and Minnesota Vikings).

Ingram had pouted his method out of city earlier than three of these defeats occurred. The Steelers have been diminished to counting on the likes of Taco Charlton and Derrek Tuszka to soak up the snaps. Tuszka had two sacks and a compelled fumble in 15 video games. Charlton had half a sack and one move defended in 11 video games.

Charlton is now in New Orleans. Tuszka seems to be the group’s greatest choice to again up each Watt and the opposite beginning exterior linebacker, Alex Highsmith.

Genard Avery and Delontae Scott may problem for taking part in time. Scott performed just one sport with the Steelers a 12 months in the past. Avery was signed away from the Philadelphia Eagles in the course of the offseason. He has totaled 7.5 sacks over 5 NFL seasons, and simply three since his rookie 12 months in Cleveland again in 2018.

I believe the Steelers ought to look to enhance the depth at that place via free company or a commerce between now and the beginning of the season. It is prospect defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is not dismissing.

“You might be all the time seeking to strengthen your group,” Austin mentioned throughout minicamp. “So if there may be anyone on the market that may strengthen us, similar to we did with Melvin final 12 months, then we’ll convey him in. Till then, we’ll work and coach the fellows we have now and see what occurs and go from there.”

For his half, Tuszka hopes that does not occur. He feels he made strides with the 247 snaps he obtained a season in the past. That accounted for 24% of the Steelers’ roughly defensive snaps in 2021.

“Coach (Mike) Tomlin all the time talks about, ‘We have who’s within the room proper now,’” Tuszka mentioned. “That is not my choice. We’re unaware (of talks to signal a veteran). I am unaware. I am simply going to be working and doing what I can to supply. Hopefully, they see that and consider in us because the backup(s) proper now.”

However neglect simply bolstering depth on the exterior linebacker place. How about possibly discovering anyone to press Highsmith because the starter? Certain, Highsmith made strides from his 2020 rookie season. However by his personal admission, he nonetheless may’ve been higher in 2021.

“I checked out my movie from final 12 months, and there are a bunch of performs the place I beat a man, however I actually did not end the frenzy. That is what I have been engaged on with TJ,” Highsmith mentioned. “Simply engaged on these issues on the prime of the frenzy. That is the place it issues most. I can beat the man, however the quarterback can step up, and I run round him. It is about bending the nook extra and getting the man’s palms off me so I can end that rush.”

It was fairly clear that a part of Ingram’s frustration in Pittsburgh was that he thought he ought to’ve been getting starter’s snaps when Watt was wholesome as a substitute of Highsmith.

After enjoying simply 43% of the snaps in 2020, that rose to 76% in 2021. However that elevated enjoying time hasn’t yielded the quantity of splash performs often related to a Steelers 3-4 exterior linebacker. Notably one who must be benefiting from having a lot consideration paid to cease Watt on the opposite facet of the sector. Over two years, Highsmith has eight sacks, only one compelled fumble, one move defended, no fumble recoveries and one interception.

That mentioned, Highsmith insisted the group does not want so as to add to the surface linebackers room to get extra manufacturing.

“As a bunch, we have a whole lot of stable guys,” Highsmith mentioned. “Derrek, Genard Avery, Delonta, and Scott. I am excited for these guys. We have a very good group. I am excited for it. We prefer to make one another higher.”

Justin Houston (33 years outdated, 102 profession sacks) is accessible once more, as he was at the moment final 12 months. He claimed signing with the Steelers was a chance again then. He had 4.5 sacks with the Baltimore Ravens in 2021, and was givn the seldom-used unrestricted-free-agent tender in Might. Ryan Kerrigan (33 years outdated, 95.5 profession sacks) and Alex Okafor (30 years outdated, 31.5 profession sacks) are potential cellphone calls, too.

Or possibly they will ventually work a commerce for somebody who could also be off the radar proper now, as they did in August of final 12 months once they acquired inside linebacker Joe Schobert from the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Steelers had $23 million in cap area previous to Ogunjobi’s signing. Even with that transfer, the Steelers ought to nonetheless be capable to get a high quality participant at exterior linebacker and an honest backup working again, too. Ingram solely counted for $4 million towards the cap a season in the past. Houston was solely a $2.2 million hit. Kerrigan was at $2.5 million. Okafor $1 million.

Nevertheless it will get completed, it must get completed. The Steelers seem to have discovered from final 12 months’s classes relating to the line of defense. Apply the identical pondering to exterior linebacker.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Overview employees author. You’ll be able to contact Tim at tbenz@triblive.com or through twitter. All tweets may very well be reposted. All emails are topic to publication until specified in any other case.

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