When the Pittsburgh Steelers take the field tonight, it’s possible that they will do so for the first time all season with four outside linebackers. They made the decision to activated rookie Olasunkanmi Adeniyi from the injured reserve list yesterday, releasing fellow linebacker Matthew Thomas from the inside in a corresponding move.
But one of the reasons the move was made now is because starter Bud Dupree is dealing with a pectoral injury, and he is questionable to play, so even with Adeniyi, the Steelers might be limited to three outside linebackers against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Should that be the case, it’s almost inconceivable that he doesn’t see some playing time. T.J. Watt could go nearly a full game, as he has shown, but while the team likes Anthony Chickillo well enough, he is not an every-down player, and frankly, I’m sure even they know that Adeniyi could offer more in obvious passing situations.
Obviously a lot of people are going to be really excited to see the new number 92 in his first taste of meaningful NFL action, though it should go without saying that expectations really need to be tempered. That goes both for how much he plays and for how well he plays. Sure, he looked good in the preseason, but that was in meaningless games against reserves and the unemployed. He wasn’t out there beating Russell Okung, who is the Los Angeles Chargers’ starting left tackle.
For some perspective, Chickillo has been averaging about 21 snaps per game. So far this season in working in a rotation with Watt and Dupree. That is obviously not a lot of work per game, considering that he has been asked to play on both sides of the field.
If Dupree manages to play, Adeniyi may only see a handful of snaps at best, especially if they are viewing him as somebody that they only trust to play on one side of the defense for the time being. He won’t necessarily come in when Chickillo also comes in.
Should Dupree sit out, however, that substantially changes the circumstances, and at that point it would almost have to be taken as a given that he will have to see meaningful playing time, especially against an offense that can be as good as the Chargers’.
I would make the argument that the Steelers thought enough of him to keep him on their initial 53-man roster, but they did the same for Thomas as well, and they just released him, though he surely could be expected to re-emerge on the practice squad.
Still, they aren’t calling him up to do him a favor. The team went this long with just three outside linebackers, but now they are ready to go with the extra help, hoping the rookie out of Toledo could offer some spark.