The Pittsburgh Steelers will play their second preseason game of 2018 Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers and while outside linebacker Bud Dupree is currently scheduled to start and play in that contest not that he’s recovered from a concussion, the team’s starter on the other side from him, T.J. Watt, is likely to sit out again as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury he that he suffered early in training camp.
After Dupree and fellow outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo, who will likely start in place of Watt, both exit the Thursday night game against the Packers, we’re likely to see them relieved by young outside linebackers Keion Adams and Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, both of whom had seemingly good NFL debuts in the team’s first preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. During his Tuesday press conference, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked to comment on what he’s seen so far out of Adams and Adeniyi as the team puts their final touches on preparing for their game against the Packers.
“You know, they’ve had their moments, they’re both adjusting, you know, guys that played defensive end-like positions at times in college,” Tomlin said. “I’m not displeased with what I’ve seen, [but they’ve] got more work to do in both instances. It’s less about outside linebacker play and more about their adjustments in the special teams phase of the game and how they get acclimated to playing in space and some of the responsibilities associated with that play as well. You can’t evaluate young outside backers, or young defenders, specifically, without including that element of the equation in the evaluation.”
In summation, Tomlin is pleased with what he’s seen so far out of both Adams and Adeniyi, who had a strip sack against the Eagles from the right outside linebacker position. That said, it’s obvious that he wants to not only see them both continue to progress as pass-rushers and edge defenders against the run moving forward into the preseason, but continue to show they can drop into space effectively. Perhaps more importantly, however, is that both Adams and Adeniyi need to show more on special teams Thursday night against the Packers.
Against the Eagles, Adeniyi played 16 special teams snaps and that was the second-most on the team. Adams, on the other hand, didn’t play any on special teams against the Eagles, according to my review of the game, so there’s a good chance he’ll get a lot of burn Thursday night against the Packers in that phase of the game.
Theoretically, both Adams and Adeniyi can ultimately make the Steelers 53-man roster several weeks from now and especially if five outside linebackers in total are kept. However, should only four in total wind up being kept, it could come down to how both Adams and Adeniyi perform on special teams throughout the preseason as the determining factor for which one is kept and which one potentially winds up on the team’s practice squad.