The last time that we took a look back at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster in review, it was weeks before the 2019 NFL Draft took place. It would be safe to say that quite a bit has changed since then, and the changes apply to almost every position on the roster, some major changes, some minor.
We are closing in on the opening of the Steelers’ several weeks of training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, however, so it would be a good time to pause and take stock of where the team stands at each position since the build-up to the draft as we head into the most critical process of the offseason.
Position: Outside Linebacker
Total Positional Figure: 8
T.J. Watt: Coming off a Pro Bowl season, there is every reason to believe that Watt can be even better in 2019. He himself admitted that he only started putting things together as a pass-rusher in the second half of the season. He does have to clean up his tackling, but keeping up the splash plays is essential.
Bud Dupree: Dupree is now on his last legs playing under his fifth-year option. He either finally has an above average season or he looks for a new team in 2019. And the Steelers are paying a hefty price tag to find out.
Anthony Chickillo: Though he was re-signed to a two-year deal, Chickillo figures to have competition for the number three role in 2019, and his roster spot could be in jeopardy in 2020. For the time being, however, he is a core member of the special teams units.
Olasunkanmi Adeniyi: Though he barely played at all in the regular season last year, Steelers coaches and players have buzzed about Adeniyi this year, both before and after on-field activities began for 2019. He will have to show the capacity to have a complete game, however, including coverage, and special teams as well.
Robert Spillane: Spillane was a futures signing in January. He had a good preseason with the Titans last year but didn’t make the team, though he spent most of the year on the practice squad. The problem is he’s limited athletically.
JT Jones: A former AAF player, where he recorded four sacks and 13 hits with a forced fumble, Jones was originally an undrafted free agent in 2017 who played for the Falcons, though only reached the practice squad.
Sutton Smith: A sixth-round pick out of Northern Illinois, Smith is undersized by has good athleticism, and his tape as a pass-rusher has fantastic traits. As a rookie, he will have to earn a spot on special teams, but he could be an exciting player in the preseason to offer hints of what he might be able to be in the future.
Tuzar Skipper: A rookie college free agent out of Toledo, and a former teammate of Adeniyi’s, he was a rookie minicamp invitee and was signed in favor of the next player below.
Keion Adams: A 2017 seventh-round pick, Adams spent last year on the practice squad after a season on injured reserve the year before. He was waived in favor of Skipper following rookie minicamp.
Notes and Camp Outlook:
The biggest story for training camp is going to be Adeniyi and Chickillo competing for roles behind Watt and Dupree, who are entrenched as the starters. If Adeniyi really pops out, however, there is a possibility that he could carve out a role for himself on defense.
Beyond that, players like Smith and Jones will be trying their damnedest to convince the Steelers that they need to keep five outside linebackers this year. They had only three on the 53-man roster for most of the 2018 season.