Pittsburgh Steelers rookie outside linebacker Olasunkanmi Adeniyi may not have gotten much of an opportunity to compete in the NFL in 2018, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t get a taste of the NFL experience. The Toledo product spent the majority of the majority of his first season on the injured reserve list, but he was promoted to the active roster late in the season.
That it was during that time more than any other that he really began to understand the difference between the college level and the pros, which is a transition that every single rookie must deal with, hundreds of players going through the same experience every year.
“The level of competition. Everybody at this stage is good”, Adeniyi told the team’s website. “You have to have something about you that sets you apart. Coming in as an undrafted rookie, not the easiest thing to do to make the team. But when you have that urgency and will, when you see around you, what the level of competition is, what you have to each day, it becomes a lot easier’.
Adeniyi was signed as a college free agent, as he mentioned himself, so he knew that it would be an uphill battle even to make the roster. But he performed at a high level in the preseason, recording three sacks, two of which produced a fumble, and that got the coaches’ attention.
The Steelers kept him on the initial 53-man roster even though he suffered a minor injury, and two days later they placed him on the injured reserve list because they wanted to have the option to promote him later in the season when he was healthy. They could have placed him on injured reserve prior to final cutdowns if they didn’t think he would be able to play.
Even though he was activated from injured reserve in time for the Week 13 game against the Los Angeles Chargers, however, the Steelers did not make much use of him. He was only active for that one game, finishing as a healthy scratch over the final four games.
He did get to play a handful of snaps in that game, however, and registered one tackle. He also drew a holding call as a pass rusher. He was active for that game because Bud Dupree was dealing with an injury issue during the week and did not practice, and his status for the game was unclear, though he played largely without issue anyway.
Now that he has gotten the first-year experience out of the way, Adeniyi will be turning his sights toward making progress as a veteran. He knows what it takes to be a professional and to compete against professionals, so now it’s just a matter of putting in the work.