Injuries can be a terrible thing for a player at any point in his career, but it can be downright isolating for a player just beginning his journey, especially if he doesn’t come into the league with a pedigree to his name. That is what we talked about pertaining to 2018 college free agent Olasunkanmi Adeniyi yesterday, who spent most of his rookie season on injured reserve.
But, he said, that wasn’t even the worst part. It was after he was activated and played in one game. As in, only one game. He was a healthy scratch for the rest of the year after that, even though there were only four outside linebackers on the 53-man roster including himself.
“Being inactive is worse than injured reserve because a lot of people think you are on the team, but you are not contributing whatsoever in my eyes”, he told the team’s website about that experience. “I never want to be in that situation again, just standing on the sidelines, cheering your teammates on, and looking at little details. Me personally, I want to play. I don’t want to be on the bench and just be comfortable”.
The Steelers waiting on starting the practice clock for him because they didn’t need him to play, but when Bud Dupree started to deal with a minor ailment and they weren’t sure what his status would be for the game against the Los Angeles Chargers, they activated Adeniyi and he played a handful of snaps over a couple of series.
But that was it for the entire season. He was on the 53-man roster for four more games, but he failed to dress for all of them. No doubt that was largely because he was not prepared to play on special teams, which is obviously something that he is going to work on this offseason, but nevertheless.
“When I came back I was active for one game and that was it. I never want to have that feeling again”, he said. “I never want to be inactive again. Whatever I have to do special teams wise to be out there, I am going to do”.
The Steelers only had eight linebackers in total on the 53-man roster, so it’s pretty rare in such circumstances that they don’t have all of them dressed. At the very least, the linebackers tend to be some of your core special teams players. That’s something Adeniyi admitted that he needs to add to his game.
After running down a list of things that he intends to improve upon this offseason, including coverage and building a pass-rush repertoire, he said that he is working “on my special teams game as well. In college I didn’t do it as much. Special teams is big”.
Adeniyi did see 45 snaps on special teams during the preseason, but only 13 of those snaps came in the final two games, which tend to be the most critical. The third preseason game is the regular season warm-up, and the final is where the fringe players earn their roster spots—often on special teams. He earned his spot on defense, but he needs to earn his gameday helmet in the third phase of the game.