First Call: 1 Steeler free agent sounds inclined to stay; Penguins FSG ownership discusses future of other investments

At least one Pittsburgh Steelers free agent sure sounds like a guy who wants to stay in Black and Gold. The Florida Panthers and New York Islanders are making waves in the Eastern Conference wild-card race. Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins continue to dominate atop the NHL standings.

And the Penguins ownership group discusses some other financial interests.

All that in Tuesday’s “First Call.”

Don’t go, Larry O?

In a recently posted interview with Teresa Varley, defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi doesn’t sound like a player who is in any hurry to leave Pittsburgh.

“Sometimes it’s hard to find organic people,” Ogunjobi said of his teammates along the defensive line. “But those guys are truly organic and real. They want the best for everybody around them. All of the guys in the locker room are like that, and when guys are like that, they play for each other. That’s how you can turn around 2-6 to 9-8. It was a testament to the men in the room.”

Ogunjobi is a pending free agent along the Steelers defensive front. Chris Wormley and Tyson Alualu are as well. That group was part of an improved Steelers rush defense that went from 32nd in the league against the run, allowing 146.1 yards per game in 2021, to a unit that ranked ninth-best at 108.1 last season.

Despite nagging injuries, Ogunjobi started 16 of 17 games. He ended the year with 48 tackles (25 solo), 11 quarterback hurries, seven tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. projects his new contract at two years and $3.4 million per season.

Even though the Steelers have Cameron Heyward and DeMarvin Leal signed for next year, Ogunjobi’s is a contract the franchise should investigate. The Steelers already have numerous holes to fill. With Wormley and Alualu perhaps leaving, keeping Ogunjobi at a moderate cost would allow the club to perhaps wait on drafting a defensive lineman until a middle round while concentrating on offensive line, cornerback and wide receiver earlier in the selection process.

Or they could allocate more free-agent cap dollars at one of those positions if they keep Ogunjobi on a cheap deal and then go D-line higher in the draft.

Prowling Panthers

The Florida Panthers are now in a wild-card position in front of the Penguins. That’s by virtue of their 4-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Monday afternoon.

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 29 of 32 shots for the win. Both Eric and Marc Staal scored for the Panthers.

The victory gives Florida 64 points. That’s good for eighth place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind the New York Islanders (65) for seventh place and one point in front of the Penguins (63) for ninth.

That’s because the Pens lost 4-2 against the Islanders on Monday night at PPG Paints Arena, allowing the Isles to vault into a playoff position. Meanwhile, the Penguins are currently on the outside looking in, having lost nine in a row to Metropolitan Division competition and three straight overall.

Beasts of the East

Also from the Eastern Conference, the Boston Bruins are continuing their sizzling pace. They beat Ottawa 3-1 on Monday to improve their point total to 91. That’s nine points better than the Metro Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy.

David Pastrnak scored twice for Boston, and Charlie McAvoy assisted on all three goals.

Pastrnak now has 41 goals, just one behind NHL leader Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers.

As for the New York Rangers, they hosted the Winnipeg Jets and lost 4-1. So the Rangers (75) remain four points behind the New Jersey Devils (79) for second place in the Metro. The Rangers are 10 points clear of the Islanders to stay in the top three and avoid wild-card seeding in the Metro race.

Money men

Despite conversation of a potential sale of Liverpool Football Club, Fenway Sports Group owner John Henry said there are no plans to sell the English Premier League team.

According to a Sunday story in the Boston Sports Journal, Henry said, “I know there has been a lot of conversation and quotes about Liverpool, but I keep to the facts: We merely formalized an ongoing process. Will we be in England forever? No. Are we selling Liverpool? No. Are we talking with investors about Liverpool? Yes. Will something happen there? I believe so, but it won’t be a sale. Have we sold anything in the past 20-plus years?”

FSG also owns the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Red Sox. FSG bought Liverpool for $358 million in 2010. ESPN reported in November that FSG has enlisted investment banks Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to assist in the process of finding a potential buyer.

Many in Pittsburgh have wondered if a developing sale of Liverpool may distract management from any looming Penguins business or impact any plans about long-term spending. But for now, it appears there will be no overlapping concerns in that regard.

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Meg’s moment

Duquesne guard Megan McConnell was named the Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball Player of the Week on Monday. It is her first award of the season.

In two games last week, McConnell averaged 18.0 points, 12.5 rebounds, 8.0 assists, an assist-to-turnover ratio of 8.0, a 56.5 field goal percentage and a 63.6 three-point percentage.

On Saturday against Richmond, the sophomore scored a career-high 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting and hit a career-high five three-pointers. The Chartiers Valley graduate also grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds. She played all 40 minutes.

Against St. Bonaventure on Wednesday, McConnell scored 13 points, grabbed seven rebounds, dished out eight assists and had two steals.

For the season, McConnell’s 8.3 defensive rebounds per game rank eighth in the country and her 5.5 assists per game rank 18th nationally. She is one of two players in D-I to have multiple triple-doubles this season, and she has 12 double-doubles to go along with them.

The Dukes host Loyola Chicago on Wednesday and visit St. Joseph’s on Saturday to finish the A-10 regular season. The conference tournament in Delaware begins March 1.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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