The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t spend a lot of time addressing the outside linebacker position this offseason. They did re-sign Anthony Chickillo in addition to picking up Bud Dupree’s fifth-year option, but that was about maintaining what is. The only high-profile addition was Sutton Smith, a sixth-round pick who is also working in the offensive backfield. They even released Keion Adams, a 2017 seventh-round pick who has been in the organization in some capacity for the past two years.
It helps to have a budding star at the top of your dept chart, as they do in T.J. Watt, but equally significant in their lack of urgency in adding to their group of edge defenders is likely their confidence in second-year Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, who had a great preseason as a college free agent before spending most of his rookie season on injured reserve.
After recording three sacks over the four-game exhibition period, two of which separated the ball, Adeniyi suffered was seemed to be a minor injury. He made the initial 53-man roster, but the team immediately moved him to injured reserve, where he would remain for most of the year, and even when he was finally called up, he played only about a dozen snaps.
It’s because of that that he still feels as though he’s almost in the same place that he was a year ago.
“I’m still considered a young guy”, he told reporters after a recent practice. “I don’t think I’ve earned that right to be called a vet yet, or anything such as that. I’m just gonna try and keep developing and hopefully as the time keeps going I develop into a better role and a better guy”.
Though he is regarded as a second-year player, and fully accrued a season last season, he doesn’t feel like it, nor does he feel that he did enough to earn it. “Not at all”, he said of that topic. “I was on IR for most of the season, so I don’t feel like I did anything at all. I’m trying to come in here and hopefully do the same thing I did last year, try and earn a spot”.
Right now, he figures to be in prime position to be one of the backup outside linebackers along with Chickillo. Smith will challenge if they somehow find they only have room for four, and there are a couple of other players, like AAF alumnus JT Jones and his former college teammate, Tuzar Skipper.
But while he may not feel like it, Adeniyi does bring with him a body of work that puts him over the other players just named above. He did have that success in the preseason. He did put that work on tape. He did get promoted in the regular season and saw action. The Steelers have plans to see him do even more in 2019.