With T.J. Watt still on the sidelines nursing a hamstring injury, second-year outside linebacker Olasunkanmi Adeniyi got the opportunity to work with the starters yesterday after Anthony Chickillo also sat out for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Chickillo returned today, but then Bud Dupree was sat out. Which mean more first-team reps for the former college free agent, who has been one of the top stories of training camp so far. And his veteran teammates, such as Stephon Tuitt, have noticed.
The sixth-year defensive lineman was asked about Adeniyi recently, with Teresa Varley quoting him as saying of him that “he has a lot of tenacity”. He added, “he has all of the things you want. He has built in leverage already. He can get around the edge. He is quick. He is fast. I think he is doing really well”.
The Steelers failed to address the outside linebacker position in free agency or early in the 2019 NFL Draft, coming away only with Sutton Smith, an undersized player from the MAC conference, in the sixth round. They then added Adeniyi’s teammate, Tuzar Skipper, as a college free agent. They, too, are from the MAC.
It’s still early, but it’s unclear realistically how much of an opportunity for upward mobility exists for Adeniyi this season. Watt and Dupree are of course the starters, but can he push Chickillo for playing time behind them? If he picks up in the preseason where he left off last year, it would be hard to leave him on the bench, or so I would think.
Former Steelers offensive lineman Craig Wolfley, who now works for the team’s radio network, has covered training camp for years, and he also had some observations in the young edge defender, which Varley shared over the team’s website.
He praised Adeniyi’s strength, which he identified as the core around which the rest of his game is built. “You are seeing his speed rush to the corner”, he said. “His hand play, trapping skills, knocking the hands down. He has excellent hand play. He reaches out and engages the guys before the guys engage him. He has a spin at the quarterback depth, so he doesn’t get run around back side. He has a great stutter and go”.
All of this helps to make his approach unpredictable. “He will throw things at you with an instinctive, almost animal-like quality in that he just knows what to do when it happens”, Wolfley shared. “I don’t think he pre-plans as much as people think”.
For all the praise that he is receiving, he has quite a reputation to live up to already. The team is excited to see him get back into a stadium environment and see what he can do. That would be the next step in determining what kind of asset he might be able to be in a meaningful game.