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 Olasunkanmi Adeniyi
Roster Vulnerability: Low/Medium
Role Vulnerability: Low/Medium
Second-year outside linebacker Olasunkanmi Adeniyi already has himself a legion of followers and supporters, even though he had only played a handful of meaningful snaps in his professional career. He did impress during the preseason with his three sacks, two of which generated fumbles, and that has fueled fantasies of what he could do on the field.
After making the initial 53-man roster, however, Adeniyi spent most of his rookie season on injured reserve and was only promoted when Bud Dupree was dealing with an injury. He played something like a dozen snaps in one game and was idle for the rest of the season.
Anthony Chickillo is the team’s number three at the position, and they just re-signed him to a two-year contract that pays him pretty well—at least if he manages to get to the second year. The team was comfortable forcing ahead with only three outside linebackers on the 53-man roster for most of last season.
If the Steelers address the position in the draft, then it’s reasonable to assume that Adeniyi is going to have a legitimate roster battle on his hands. It’s wholly possible that he and a draft pick are both retained on the roster, but it’s not a guarantee. And the fact that they didn’t give him the opportunity to play special teams is not great.
With Dupree heading into his final year, and Chickillo essentially on a one-year option deal, it’s rather likely that the team is going to take an outside linebacker, and possibly fairly early in the draft, with an eye toward 2020.
Of course anything that happens to Adeniyi will be up to him. He will be given every opportunity to compete for a roster spot, and even failing that, he is still eligible for the practice squad.