The Pittsburgh Steelers have used a return designation slot for a rookie defender for the second year in a row in 2018, earlier placing college free agent outside linebacker Olasunkanmi Adeniyi on injured reserve. Nobody was more surprised about that move than he was himself. And he wasn’t happy about it either.
“At first I thought it was a bad thing”, he said, but as Cameron Sutton learned a year ago, he now understands that he can use this period while on the injured reserve list to strengthen himself in the game from the mental point of view, including gaining a better grasp of the playbook.
“It is what it is. It’s a business”, he said earlier this week, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “And there’s nothing you can do about it. I just have to use it to my advantage, just get my body right, get in better shape, so that when I come back I will be ready to go”.
Adeniyi recorded his third sack of the preseason, and second strip sack, in the finale, but then he left the game with a hamstring injury. He was placed on the initial 53-man roster, but days later was moved to injured reserve. A player must be on the 53-man roster in order to be eligible to be designated for return later on in the year.
While he is frustrated that he will not be able to participate in the on-field work—designated players on injured reserve can only return to practice after spending six weeks there, and are eligible to be activated to the 53-man roster after eight weeks—he has learned to see the benefits as well.
“Now when I come back they will have me for the rest of the season instead of having me here-there and here-there.’ So it’s a good thing”, he said. “I can still be out there watching, take mental reps, watch film, and I can just sharpen up on the playbook, learn everything that I need to learn, get in better shape while I’m at it, and just get my body together to when I come back I am ready to go and be on fire”.
With Adeniyi on injured reserve, the Steelers currently have only three true outside linebackers on the 53-man roster. aside from starters T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree, fourth-year reserve Anthony Chickillo remains with the team. Two additional outside linebackers—second-year Keion Adams and first-year Farrington Huguenin—are on the practice squad.
Rookie college free agent inside linebacker Matthew Thomas has also been used off the edge in pass-rushing situations this summer. He even recorded a strip sack himself in the preseason finale, which he recovered and nearly returned for a touchdown.