Bringing back a series I had a lot of fun exploring the last several offseasons. Every player wants to improve, to elevate his game in all areas from one season to the next. Understanding that, we’re going to isolate just one area, one faction of a player’s game. The biggest area for improvement.
Ola Adeniyi – Show Value On Special Teams
We got a glimpse of much hyped rookie Ola Adeniyi in 2018. A training camp star, he saw action in Week 13 against the Los Angeles Chargers. Heading into his sophomore year, he should be counted on for an expanded role o rat worst, the chance to do so. The Steelers are still looking for pass rush help with Bud Dupree’s overall disappointment and Anthony Chickillo’s near complete ineffectiveness there, not to mention he will be a free agent (though it’s likely he returns).
While I doubt Adeniyi starts, especially should Dupree be kept making more than $9 million, he could become the #3 and top backup. He’ll rotate with both starters with the chance for a 4-5 sack season, something he could achieve given the pass rush profile we’ve already seen. I’m less concerned about that than I am the other role he’ll carry as the #3 linebacker. Special teams.
It’s hard to see someone in that backup role being a non-factor in the coverage/return game. James Harrison did it late in his career, I guess, but he had one heck of a resume to give him that freedom. Early in his career, he did the dirty work on special teams as his way to work up the ladder.
That’s always been my concern with Adeniyi. He’s not a great athlete. Squatty body. Didn’t test well. He ran a 4.83 40 and jumped 31.5 inches at the Combine and looks about the same on the field. He didn’t play a single snap there in his rookie season, having trouble getting a hat probably for that very reason.
Generally, that #3 linebacker is a core special teamer. Say what you will about Chickillo but that was his calling card. No Steeler has played more special teams snaps – 644 of them – than Chickillo has the last two years. It comes with the territory.
Figuring out how to get Adeniyi better there is tough. Honing his technique will be critical to make up for his lack of athleticism. Though I think he can be a starter one day, he’s gotta crawl before he walks. And that means proving he can make an impact thumping on kicks and punts before the starting ROLB job opens up.