The Pittsburgh Steelers saw not one but two rookies make their NFL debuts on Sunday, and I will be taking a look at both of them today, starting with college free agent outside linebacker Olasunkanmi Adeniyi.
The Toledo product recorded three sacks during the preseason, who of which produced fumbles, but he suffered an injury in the finale that landed him on injured reserve after making the initial 53-man roster, and he only started practicing a couple of weeks ago.
Adeniyi was activated to the 53-man roster on Saturday and played nine snaps the next night, all of them coming on the right side of the defense. Officially, he recorded one assisted tackle and also drew a holding penalty.
He first play in the game was logged about five minutes into the second quarter, a first-and-10 running play with Austin Ekeler being tackle for no gain. While he did not record a tackle on the play—or at least was not officially credited with a tackle on the play—he did a great job of setting the edge and funneling the play into the heart of the defense.
His one official statistic was recorded a few plays later. Ekeler cut back on a run to the left after finding nothing open in the direction the play was designed to go. Javon Hargrave pretty much blew up any hope of cutting right, but Adeniyi pursued and joined Cameron Heyward in making the tackle for a loss of three yards.
Soon after that, he went up against Russell Okung in the pass rush. The left tackle got an early jump—that is, a false start—but Adeniyi was still able to cross his face, which encouraged an early throw that was incomplete, intended for Keenan Allen with Marcus Allen in coverage.
Late in the third quarter, with the Chargers facing a third and four, Philip Rivers was able to find Antonio Gates for an 18-yard completion. But it was called back because Adeniyi was held by Okung after beating him around the edge. Stephon Tuitt still got a hit on Rivers on the play.
The Steelers’ other backup outside linebacker, Anthony Chickillo, is nursing an ankle injury. If he doesn’t play, Adeniyi figures to play twice as many snaps on Sunday in Oakland, if not more, giving him a greater opportunity to have an impact.