The Pittsburgh Steelers only retained three of the five outside linebackers that they had on the roster from last season. They did not sign any in free agency, nor did they draft one. Yet they have two young players at the position they’re excited about, even if neither are currently on the 53-man roster.
Rookie undrafted free agent Olasunkanmi Adeniyi made the roster but was then placed on injured reserve with the hopes of being activated in the second half of the season. Second-year Keion Adams is on the practice squad after spending his rookie year on injured reserve. He would probably be on the 53-man roster if he were much of a special-teams contributor, though, because while he did not record a sack, he did flash as a pass-rusher.
While it’s worth keeping in mind that he wasn’t exactly working against starters, Adams was able to generate pressure or at least turn the corner on a high percentage of his pass rushes against the Carolina Panthers, particularly in the fourth quarter. I like his ability to avoid being driven up the arc on this rush, even though it was a positive play for the offense.
On the following defensive drive, he showed great hand usage in working against the right tackle, swatting the big lineman’s arms down, causing him to bend at the waist, and managing to get a hit on the quarterback.
It was especially at the end of the game that Adams really seemed to have free reign, however. On multiple plays, he displayed a one-arm bull-rush that he was able to commandeer with effectiveness, converting speed to power. Here he drove the tackle into the quarterback’s lap and forced him to scramble
Then he got a chance to try the same move against a tight end and…it got ugly. The poor man was put on skates before being driven to the grass, tumbling as though he spilled out of a moving vehicle.
Just for good measure, he hit the right tackle with a well-timed spin move to the inside that allowed him to register another hit.
One thing I would like to note is that, over the course of the game, Adams did see snaps on both the left and the right side, so the ability to play on both sides will bode well for him in the future. But he really needs to gain trust on special teams, which is pretty much essential for a depth linebacker.