There’s a good chance that Pittsburgh Steelers second-year outside linebacker Olasunkanmi Adeniyi winds up starting the team’s Friday night preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and everyone reading this post is likely very excited about the prospects of that potentially happening. Even if Adeniyi doesn’t start Friday night, he’ll be in the game on the right side of the defense before anyone can blink an eye. While Adeniyi, who was signed last year as an undrafted free agent out of Toledo is now technically considered a second-year player, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made it clear on Wednesday during his press conference that he doesn’t view him as one due to the time he missed during his rookie season because of a hamstring injury.
“I don’t view this as his second year,” Tomlin said of Adeniyi on Wednesday. “He didn’t play enough. You know, he’s done some nice things here and displayed growth and development. Obviously he’s been a part of the program so there’s some benefits from that perspective in terms of knowing expectations and understanding environments, and knowing the turns in the road and so forth that first timers don’t. But he doesn’t have enough play experience, on-field playing experience, for that to be a real asset to him. I think he’s preparing with that in mind.”
Last year during the preseason, Adeniyi really showed quite a bit in the team’s four games both as pass rusher and run defender. Of his 9 total tackles last year during the preseason, 3 of them were sacks and twice he forced fumbles. Unfortunately for Adeniyi, however, he suffered a hamstring injury during the team’s 2018 preseason finale and it resulted in him being placed on the Reserve/Injured list at the start of the regular season. That meant he couldn’t practice with the team until the later part of November and while ultimately activated to the 53-man roster in early December, he only played 9 total defensive snaps and zero special teams snaps the team’s final five regular season games.
By several accounts so far during the Steelers 2019 training camp, Adeniyi has finally caught back up with the proverbial moving train that left him behind last season. He also looks to be in even better physical condition than he was last season at this same time. To date, Adeniyi’s seemingly received a nice share of first-team defensive snaps throughout training camp and pretty much has dominated as a second-team player since arriving at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe in late July.
Friday night against the Buccaneers Adeniyi isn’t likely to face Tampa Bay’s starting left tackle Donovan Smith as he’s reportedly dealing with an injury currently. As for who will get the start Friday night at left tackle against the Buccaneers, it’s really hard to tell but regardless, it will likely be a younger inexperienced player that Adeniyi should be expected to handle with relatively ease.
Adeniyi is likely to play quite a bit Friday night against the Buccaneers as the team doesn’t have a lot depth at the position behind him. Youngsters Sutton Smith, Tuzar Skipper and JT Jones are the other outside linebackers currently on the team besides Adeniyi, Anthony Chickillo and starters Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt. However, both Dupree and Watt are unlikely to play Friday night and Chickillo is likely to get most of his reps on the left side and thus opposite of Adeniyi. Smith is also reportedly attempting to fight through an injury right now as well.
Are you ready for Ola to put on a show Friday night? While Tomlin might not consider Adeniyi to be a true second-year player I’m expecting the young outside linebacker to play like one Friday night just the same. His march toward potentially being a future starter on the right side needs to begin Friday night at Heinz Field.