As is the case with most teams around the league, the Pittsburgh Steelers like to have the option of exercising a rotation among their defensive front seven, with that rotation in recent years even extending to the inside linebacker group.
When it comes to the outside linebackers, the team had been relying almost exclusively upon fifth-year veteran Anthony Chickillo to serve as the rotational component of the group, logging a roughly even number of snaps on both the left and the right side of the defense, in place of both Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt.
That is an essential quality for any backup, to have that sort of diversity in your skill set, to be able to play multiple positions, or to play a position on multiple sides. If there is one quality Chickillo possessed, it is that. And right now, they don’t have much behind him.
Currently, the only other outside linebacker in the organization is Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, a second-year player who pretty much missed his rookie season. So far through six games this season (some of which he missed due to injury), he’s logged 36 snaps on defense, with 24 coming on the left side. In the preseason, he played 33 snaps on the right, 14 on the left. As a rookie, over 80 percent of his snaps were on the right side. So for the most part, he’s been a right-side rusher.
In light of Chickillo’s arrest, and the lack of depth at the position, Mike Tomlin was asked yesterday about his comfort level in Adeniyi’s ability to play on both sides of the field. “I can’t speak to comfortability”, he said.
“I think all of our guys that aren’t frontline starters better have bigtime versatility, and 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 position”, he went on. “Some positions are a little bit different; left tackles, right tackles. But something like outside linebacker or corner, we expect those guys to be versatile enough to get in where they fit in”.
In other words, whether he has or hasn’t, he’s going to have to do it. Because the Steelers need him to do it. Because right now, they don’t have anybody else to do it.
Granted, chances are very good that they will add somebody to the position by the end of the week. If they don’t claim Tuzar Skipper off waivers, they will likely re-sign Jayrone Elliott, who was on the 53-man roster prior to their last game, and even played a few defensive snaps.