The Pittsburgh Steelers only have three outside linebackers on their roster, but they have gotten seven sacks out of the group so far through the first four games. That would project to 28 sacks from the position over a full season, which is a healthy and respectable amount.
T.J. Watt recorded three in the season opener, though he has yet to add another. Bud Dupree has had a sack in three of his four games played so far, and Anthony Chickillo, the rotational reserve on both sides, added one of his own against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week.
But it never hurts to call in some reinforcements, and the team does have another outside linebacker waiting in the wings. Like, pretty much just waiting. That would be college free agent rookie Olasunkanmi Adeniyi out of Toledo, who made the initial 53-man roster.
Adeniyi, who suffered a minor injury at the end of the preseason, was quickly moved to the injured reserve list, however. That was the plan, of course, as a player must be on the 53-man roster in order to be made eligible to be activated back to the roster later in the season.
The Steelers obviously felt that his injury was significant enough—and his position on the team insignificant enough—that it would be best that he sit on injured reserve for the first half of the season. Players on injured reserve must miss at least eight games but can begin practicing after six weeks.
According to Chris Adamski, Adeniyi “remains on good track to be able to practice when he’s first eligible”, which will be following the team’s first game against the Cincinnati Bengals on October 14.
Safety Malik Golden (a Penn State alum on IR because of a torn ACL) is off his crutches. Of course his target is to be 100% in time for OTAs in May
Rookie OLB Ola Adeniyi (on IR, hamstring) remains on good track to be able to practice when he’s first eligible in 2 wks (Oct. 15)
— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) October 1, 2018
The Steelers have a bye week after that game, which means that their eighth week will be their seventh game. This is an important distinction because up until this season, players on injured reserve were allowed to be activated after spending eight weeks there. It was changed for this season to be eight games.
So if this were to have happened last year, Adeniyi would have been able to return for the November 4 game against the Baltimore Ravens, which takes place in Week Nine but is their eighth game. Instead, he will have to wait until the November 8 game on Thursday Night Football in Week 10 against the Carolina Panthers.
It’s worth noting that the Steelers have been giving Chickillo more snaps in reserve lately, though that’s partially due to the fact that he has been subbing on both sides. Watt, for example, sat out six plays and Dupree 10, adding to 16 for Chickillo, on Sunday.
I feel pretty confident, however, that when Adeniyi is on the roster, he is going to be rotated in for some passing situations after recording three sacks—including two strips—in the preseason. He is on track to practice in two weeks, but he’ll have three weeks of practice after that before he can get that opportunity.