Now that the 2019 NFL Draft is underway, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: OLB Olasunkanmi Adeniyi
Stock Value: Up
The Steelers did draft a player at Adeniyi’s position, but nonetheless I believe the teams’ approach to the 2019 NFL Draft indeed validates the believe that they are high on him and his potential—to that end, it helps that Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin pretty much said as much. Keith Butler spoke to his future in 2019 as well.
The only addition to the group that they made was Sutton Smith, and while they surely like him—they wouldn’t have drafted him otherwise—they also made it clear that his immediate future is on special teams. While he was highly productive in his final two collegiate seasons, that was in the MAC, and he is undersized in terms of weight in particular for an edge rusher.
Through the post-draft process, the Steelers spoke of Adeniyi as a player whose rookie season was limited more or less only because he was injured. From the sounds of it, the implication is that he would have had a bigger role in 2018 if he did not spend most of the year on injured reserve.
He ultimately played in only one game, logging about a dozen snaps against the Los Angeles Chargers in a game in which Bud Dupree came in listed as questionable as he dealt with an injury that he was able to play through.
While the team assured that they would retain their top backup in Anthony Chickillo, the likelihood is that they would like to see Adeniyi take over the backup role on one side, which would allow them to fully rotate their pass rushers. He likely would be on the right side. Chickillo is equally capable of both but has more experience on the left.
It’s natural for a team that fails to draft a pre-draft area of concern to be defensive about where the team currently stands there. Frankly, the Steelers did that just last year at the inside linebacker position. So talking up Adeniyi here doesn’t necessarily mean that they love him, or that they ought to. But it does mean that he has a real chance for a meaningful role in 2019.