There are few things more frustrating for a young player—especially one on the margins of the roster—than to deal with a significant injury, generally of the variety that would land you on the injured reserve list. That was the trial that 2018 college free agent rookie outside linebacker Olasunkanmi Adeniyi faced throughout the majority of the season.
Though he made the initial 53-man roster by virtue of a strong preseason that included a trio of sacks, two of which produced a fumble, the Steelers quickly moved him to the injured reserve list well in advance of the first game being played. He suffered a minor injury in the final preseason game, but he didn’t seem to think it was much of an issue.
“When I got the news that I was going on injured reserve I had it in mind this is happening, but I will be back after six weeks or whatever”, he told the team’s website. “I put in all of that work and then six weeks comes and you are still on injured reserve. It was frustrating. I just never let it get to me, kept working every day to get better”.
Instead, it took him more than half of the season before the team got him started back on the practice field, and they only activated him in time for the Los Angeles Chargers game late in the season—likely only because starter Bud Dupree was dealing with a minor injury. It is the only game that he dressed for and played in during his rookie season.
“It felt like I wasn’t part of the team when that was going on”, he admitted, which is a common feeling for those on injured reserve, especially rookies. “I kept talking to the guys. I kept hanging around them. It definitely felt like I wasn’t part of the team. I am over on one side doing a track meet. I can’t do anything football wise. It was hard”.
There are two players that he likely consulted with, just off the top of my head, those being wide receiver Eli Rogers and offensive lineman Jerald Hawkins. Coincidentally, both of them were injured in 2018 as well, Rogers beginning the year on the Physically Unable to Perform List and Hawkins on the long-term injured reserve.
But both of them also know what it’s like to be a young player, not necessarily fixed in your role on the team, only to suffer an injury late in the process that puts you on the shelf. Each of them spend their rookie seasons on injured reserve, so surely they could relate.
As he enters his second season, he figures to battle Anthony Chickillo for playing time as rotational outside linebackers. His roster spot, however, could be in jeopardy in the event that the Steelers use a draft pick at the position.