There’s no way of getting around the fact that NFL rosters are cyclical in nature. Every year at a minimum, hundreds upon hundreds of new players enter the labor market for just 32 NFL teams, each of whom field 63 players per season, plus those on injured reserve and other non-active lists.
With hundreds of players drafted every year and just as many if not more coming in as undrafted free agents, it’s inevitable that some of the 2000-plus players with NFL contracts from the season before are going to lose their spots. Some teams see far more turnover than others on a regular basis.
As we get close to the draft, I want to do some risk assessment for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster based on their current needs and how they have handled them in free agency, compared to how they typically go about handling their business in the draft.
Asset: OLB Keion Adams
Roster Vulnerability: High
Role Vulnerability: High
Considering the fact that he has yet to be on the 53-man roster during his first two NFL seasons, it’s fair to say that the 2019 NFL Draft is very risky for 2017 seventh-round draft pick Keion Adams. After he spent his rookie season on injured reserve—suffering an injury even before the first preseason game—he spent all of last year on the practice squad.
And this was in spite of that fact that, for most of the season, the Steelers only carried three pure outside linebackers on the 53-man roster. Behind starters T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree for most of that time was only Anthony Chickillo, with rookie college free agent Olasunkanmi Adeniyi spending all but five weeks on injured reserve. The Steelers also viewed inside linebacker Matthew Thomas as outside-capable in an emergency, however.
But it is far from a rarity for the team to carry five outside linebackers. And it’s certainly not impossible for Adams to make the jump from the practice squad to the 53-man roster at this point in his career. He didn’t get much football work in during his rookie year, so last season was also a big adjustment.
Now he has a full year of on-field work under his belt, with those valuable physical reps as well, and is ready to compete for his spot. One concern is that he didn’t play much on special teams during the preseason, however, and if he wants to be the number five outside linebacker, he’s going to have to play there.
But if the team uses just about any draft pick on the position later this month, it’s going to be hard to find a spot for Adams, as draft picks tend to get priority. That would especially be the case for a player who has never even played a snap in a meaningful game. Frankly, he was outperformed by Farrington Huguenin last year.