One of the reasons that the Pittsburgh Steelers did not significantly address the outside linebacker position this spring is because they liked the potential of second-year Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, a 2018 college free agent out of Toledo who earned a spot on the 53-man roster out of training camp, but spent most of the year on injured reserve.
Despite being given barely any opportunity to contribute during his rookie season, Adeniyi has seemingly picked up in Latrobe where he left off last time, and has been one of the more notable players so far in training camp. He shined in the backs-on-backers drill yesterday.
Just don’t let him know that he reminds you of anybody, because he doesn’t care for it. Even though the comparisons are ready-made, he told reporters after practice yesterday that he would prefer not to be a part of the player comp phenomenon relative to James Harrison, the long-time All-Pro defender who previously bore his number 92 jersey.
“Yeah, I hear” the comparisons, Adeniyi, who like Harrison was a college free agent coming out of a MAC school in Ohio, and who has a similar body type and composition. “I’m trying to make a name for myself. I don’t want to be compared to him. He’s one of the greats. I want my name to be a household name”.
He doesn’t have the easiest name to pronounce, but the abbreviated ‘Ola’ isn’t difficult at all.
So far, he has been consistently working as the number two right-side outside linebacker behind Bud Dupree. He has yet to be given any first-team reps even though T.J. Watt has missed the first three training camp practices with a tight hamstring.
Instead, fifth-year veteran Anthony Chickillo has so far taken all of those first-team reps. Chickillo was the only other outside linebacker on the roster for most of the 2018 regular season behind Watt and Dupree before Adeniyi was activated from injured reserve, and even then, he was a healthy scratch most of the time.
It will be interesting to see if the Steelers end up trying to give Adeniyi any first-team reps, which would indicate that he could be in the mix to be the first outside linebacker off the bench. It may be that they see him limited to playing on the right side, though we know that both of the team’s starters have played on either side in the past.
“I’m just being patient”, Adeniyi said of the slow climb up the depth chart and of the training camp evolution process. “I’m going to do whatever I need to do to just get that opportunity. I’ll be ready for it”.
And the fans will be ready to embrace him. He already sparked imaginations during the preseason last year with three sacks, two of them inducing fumbles, which only further invoked memories of Harrison. The fact of the matter is that, the better he plays, the more he’s going to remind people of Silverback. So he may have to embrace it.