Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt was slowed in practice on Wednesday due to an abdomen injury he suffered during the team’s Week 6 road win over the Los Angeles Chargers and that resulted in backup outside linebacker Olasunkanmi Adeniyi working with the first-team defense in his place, according to Jacob Klinger of pennlive.com. Adeniyi confirmed that was the case after Wednesday’s practice.
“This is the most reps I’ve taken in practice since I’ve been here,” Adeniyi said, according to Klinger.
Adeniyi, who has played all of 38 defensive snaps so far this season, has moved up one spot on the Steelers outside linebacker depth chart due to Anthony Chickillo being sidelined indefinitely as a result of him being arrested over the weekend and charged with simple assault. While the NFL and the Steelers further investigate Chickillo’s recent incident, he’s been placed on the commissioner’s exempt list and his spot on the 53-man active roster was filled on Wednesday by outside linebacker Jayrone Elliot, who was re-signed after being waived the Friday ahead of the game against the Chargers.
Should Watt ultimately be unable to play Monday night against the Miami Dolphins, Adeniyi would make his first-career NFL start. Last season the undrafted free agent out of Toledo spent most of his rookie season on the Steelers Reserve/Injured list with a hamstring injury that he suffered late in the preseason. While he ultimately found his way to the Steelers 53-man roster later last season as a designated-to-return player, he only logged 9 total defensive snaps in just one game and didn’t play any on special teams. While Adeniyi also had a torn meniscus repaired ahead of this year’s season starting, he recovered quickly.
While Adeniyi hasn’t played much on defense so far this season, he has recorded two total tackles with one resulting in lost yardage. Most of his snaps played have come on the left side, but he has played some on the right side as well. During his Tuesday press conference, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked specifically about Adeniyi and if he is comfortable playing both outside linebacker positions.
“I can’t speak to comfortability,” Tomlin said. “I think all of our guys that aren’t front-line starters better have big time versatility. Playing right or left should not be significant in terms of their ability to put their hand in the pile and aid us, particularly at the outside linebacker positions. Some positions are a little bit different, left tackles and right tackles, but something like outside linebacker or corner, we expect those guys to be versatile enough to get in where they fit in.”
We won’t find out more about Watt’s potential game status for the team’s Monday night home game against the Dolphins until later this week as the first official injury report ahead of that contest taking place won’t be released until Thursday afternoon. However, even if Watt does wind up being deemed healthy enough to play Monday night against the Dolphins, Adeniyi is sure to spell him some and maybe even fellow outside linebacker Bud Dupree on the other side some during that game. In short, look for Adeniyi to set a new single-game high for defensive snap counts Monday night against the Dolphins.
Only 11 snaps Monday for Ola Adeniyi but back-to-back impressive reps against the run. Contain then shed and make the tackle on the first play. Next, shoot the gap, force the back to cut, blow play up in backfield. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/FxWQhHmzIr
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) October 2, 2019