As of right now, we don’t know what is going to happen at the outside linebacker position for the Pittsburgh Steelers right now. Perhaps they have a plan in place. We don’t know at this time. We know that Mike Tomlin said retaining Bud Dupree is a priority, but making something a priority and actually accomplishing it can sometimes be far apart.
The Steelers have to consider a multiple-year philosophy here, one that includes the inevitability of throwing a whole bunch of money at T.J. Watt in the near future. He won’t get any cheaper if he wins the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
If they are unable to retain Dupree, and he signs a big, fat contract in free agency, then the Steelers have a problem on their hands, and that is regardless of whether or not they decided to release Anthony Chickillo, which, frankly, they should at the salary he’s making for 2020 relative to his abilities.
There are two other young outside linebackers on the roster, both out of Toledo. Tuzar Skipper was the preseason darling in 2019, and he took a circuitous route back to the 53-man roster late in the season after originally making it.
But before him was Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, who in his second season has still not gotten a chance to play a whole lot. Part of that is because the starters spend so much time on the field. Another part of it was an early injury. But either way, he’s looking for more in 2020.
“I feel like I kind of got lost a little bit in the shuffle”, he told Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette earlier this week. “Next year’s a new year, and I’ll come back harder”. The Steelers originally signed Adeniyi as a college free agent in 2018 after he went undrafted.
He understands the importance of having two dynamic edge defenders, especially after watching Watt and Dupree combine for 26 sacks and 10 forced fumbles in 2019. He wouldn’t mind having a shot at being a part of one such dynamic pairing.
“Nowadays, you see every team has that duo of pass-rushers”, he told Batko. “I feel like T.J. and Bud were just starting to come into their own. If he’s not here next year, I feel like it’ll be a big loss, but that’s part of the business”.
And business decisions that see two sides part company always means there’s opportunity for somebody else. Sometimes that decision is dictated by the presence of a potential worthy candidate as a replacement. There’s no way the team would go into the 2020 season banking on Adeniyi being the starter if they lose Dupree, of course—they would be more likely to keep Chickillo if they don’t tag Dupree—but anything could happen.