The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Second-year outside linebacker Olasunkanmi Adeniyi will have five or more sacks in 2019.
Explanation: Adeniyi only had a handful of snaps during his rookie season a year ago, but he also spent most of it on injured reserve. This offseason, the coaching staff has seemingly gone out of its way on multiple occasions to point out that they are looking forward to seeing what he can do making the jump into year two.
Based on his ability to get after the passer shown in the preseason a year ago, provided that he maintains that level of pursuit capability, there really shouldn’t be much of an obstacle toward him getting playing time, and perhaps even being used in a specialized role that puts him in positions to get after the quarterback in ideal situations.
This would be in contrast to how the team has used Anthony Chickillo, who does not necessarily excel as a pass rusher but is an all-around reliable performer, and represents more of a breather-type player than an alternative asset.
Chickillo played about 300 snaps last season, over half of which came rushing the passer. If his skill demands it, Adeniyi could see a similar workload, and that could be enough to produce the five sacks. T.J. Watt recorded 13 sacks in about three times as many pass-rush opportunities, so it’s realistic.
This question is like catnip for those who always pull for the underdog, even though they very rarely actually live up to the hype we create around them. Sure, Adeniyi got some sacks in the preseason. He seems like he might have some pass-rush moves.
He hasn’t shown it much at all against NFL-quality competition yet, even if that is from a lack of opportunity. And there’s no assurances whatsoever that he is going to get that opportunity. If the starters stay healthy, the team is likely to continue to rely primarily on Chickillo as the number three outside linebacker.
And even if he does get his 15 or 20 snaps a game, let’s say, which is unlikely, there’s not enough to go on that will actually tell you he’s going to convert his preseason success against third-string tackles to success against starters.