Steelers News

Tomlin: Backup OLBs Play Because They’re ‘Varsity-Capable’

The Pittsburgh Steelers were not 100 percent sure if they would have the services of Bud Dupree on Sunday, which prompted them to activate rookie outside linebacker Olasunkanmi Adeniyi from the injured reserve list to give them four on the 53-man roster. All four ended up dressing and seeing playing time on defense.

Adeniyi didn’t log extensive time, but he did see nine snaps, all on defense, not playing at all on special teams. All nine of his snaps came on the right side of the ball, where Dupree plays, while Anthony Chickillo played 11 snaps, all on T.J. Watt’s side.

All told, that was 20 snaps combined that the Steelers’ starting outside linebackers were able to get off during the game, which is roughly on-par with what they have been getting all season, though now the team is using two outside linebackers to absorb those snaps rather than just Chickillo.

Chickillo had actually been averaging more like 24-25 snaps per game since the bye week, an increase over the first six games of the season outside of the 32 snaps that he played back in Week Five. Head Coach Mike Tomlin was asked about why there was an increase in the rotational snaps in recent weeks.

Because they’re capable. We’re going to play guys that prove to be varsity-capable”, was his simple answer. “Anthony Chickillo, this is not his first rodeo with us. This guy has played a lot of football with us, started some games that others have missed and so forth. The guys that are capable components for us are going to play. It’s as simple as that”.

Tomlin unfortunately didn’t make any direct comments about Adeniyi or his performance in the game (I myself will be taking a closer look at the snaps that he played later in the week), but I think the fact that he was trusted to take the field for even the nine snaps that he did see is a confirmation that he is included in the ‘varsity-capable’ description.

And that could be pretty important, given the fact that Chickillo suffered another ankle sprain on Sunday covering a punt. He had the same issue a couple of weeks ago but was able to play in the next game. If he should miss this one, then Adeniyi would be the only backup.

In that event, the Steelers would probably limit Adeniyi to one side and instead move Dupree to the left side, where he played prior to this season, when the rookie would come in to sub for Watt. Despite limited work, he did show flash, drawing a holding call that elicited memories of the last player to wear the number 92 jersey.

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