Whether or not the Pittsburgh Steelers will have T.J. Watt available for them on Sunday, it’s fair to say that second-year outside linebacker Olasunkanmi Adeniyi is in line to receive the most extensive playing time in his career—in part because that’s really not saying much at all.
But with Watt banged up and likely to be somewhat limited even if he does play, combined with the Anthony Chickillo situation taking him away from the team, Adeniyi is the next man in line to receive playing time, so whatever snaps Watt and Bud Dupree don’t take, he will be getting.
It’s a big opportunity for him, but he is an unproven guy, so there is a large degree of uncertainty at play. Many fans are still seeing the guy who had three sacks during the preseason in 2018 and expecting him to do that against starters. He is the next James Harrison, after all. He can’t prove them right until he gets his shot, though.
While Keith Butler was talking to reporters yesterday, he talked about how, for the most part, the Steelers have had their outside linebackers play a good deal of the snaps. While Watt and Dupree might not be consistently logging the some percentages at Harrison and LaMarr Woodley did, it’s still a sizable chunk that, on a good day for them, doesn’t leave a lot of room for rotation.
Even if it’s “eight percent”, as Butler cited, via a transcript provided by the team’s media department, the team expects Adeniyi to play above the line. “He’s got stuff to learn, but he is a good pass rusher”, the defensive coordinator said.
“He is trying to do what we asked him to do”, he would go on to say. “He works hard at it. I think he will help us. He will give us a break when we need a break. You just talked about those guys running 92 percent of the plays, and Ola will have to take that other eight percent for both of them right now until we see what happens”.
It’s not as though they really have much other choice. Adeniyi is their top backup now, and probably will be for the remainder of the season, at least based on my expectation of how the Chickillo arrest unfolds. He’s currently on the Commissioner’s Exempt List.
The only other outside linebacker on the roster is Jayrone Elliott, who was re-signed earlier this week, the team opting to bring him back rather than Tuzar Skipper, a rookie who made the initial 53-man roster, passing up the chance to claim him off waivers.