Mason Rudolph cleared the air over 2019 brawl, new Pittsburgh Steelers DT Larry Ogunjobi says

LATROBE, Pa. — Once on opposite teams and opposite ends of a 2019 brawl, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph immediately reached out to Larry Ogunjobi this offseason after the former Cleveland Browns defensive tackle signed a one-year deal to become his new teammate.

“It’s just water under the bridge,” Ogunjobi said Tuesday as he reported to training camp with the Steelers. “That was years ago. No hard feelings. I don’t think he has any hard feelings. It’s just men in a sport. Sometimes we act out of emotions, and I was defending my teammate. He was doing his thing.

“I feel like it is what it is. He reached out, we talked to each other. It was over the day it happened. To me, at least, the only way I can move is forward.”

Ogunjobi, 28, was suspended one game for his role in the 2019 melee between Myles Garrett and Rudolph. The quarterback attempted to remove Garrett’s helmet in the aftermath of a hard hit, and Garrett swung Rudolph’s own helmet at him in the final seconds of a Thursday night game at FirstEnergy Stadium. The NFL determined Ogunjobi shoved Rudolph to the ground.

Ogunjobi also was fined $10,000, which was rescinded on appeal.

“There’s no need to hold grudges,” said Ogunjobi, who played for the Cincinnati Bengals last season. “We play a very emotional sport. It’s emotion-driven and sometimes you act out of emotion. Being able to reach out, talk to each other and say, ‘I’m happy for you to be here; I’m excited to work with you.’ That speaks volumes about who he is.”

Ogunjobi signed a one-year deal worth up to $8 million in late June after the surprise retirement of Steelers defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt, who didn’t play in 2021 while he dealt with a knee injury and the sudden death of his brother. The Steelers are drafted defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal.

“How do you offset his departure?” defensive leader Cam Heyward said of Tuitt, who had 11 sacks in 2020. “That dude is a monster. Tuitt, he’s my guy. We’re never looking to replace him, but we’re looking to replace what he brought to the team, what he did on the field. … Time will tell. We have five or six weeks before our first game. We’ve got to continue to grow and see where we are at the end of this.”

Ogunjobi, who had seven sacks and 12 tackles for loss last season, understands he’s got a tall task in front of him, but he believes his skillset is similar to Tuitt’s. “He played the game fast and physical,” Ogunjobi said of Tuitt. “Always around the ball, always find a way to make plays. I feel like that fits my nature as well, being able to get up field, make plays, disrupt the quarterback. I feel like we’re similar in that aspect. I have nothing but respect for his game. I’m sad to see him leave.”

Ogunjobi nearly joined the Chicago Bears in free agency, but he failed his physical following a late-season foot injury with the Bengals last season. The injury required surgery, but he anticipates being ready to take the field for his third AFC North team by September.

“It’s been really welcoming.” Ogunjobi said of the Steelers. “When you’ve been in the division for six years, you get a beat on the guys, get a feel for them. You get to meet them through transitions. You see them in the offseason. Everybody reached out, said they were excited to work. I’m excited to work. I can’t wait.”

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