2020 Training Camp Battles: Backup OLB

With our series breaking down each position on the roster completed, it’s time to turn our focus on what is going on within each position, and on the roster as a whole. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be taking a closer look at some of the roster battles that we expect to see unfold over the course of training camp as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the start of the 2020 season.

This is not a conventional offseason, of course, for obvious reasons, which is likely to play a role in many of these battles, some in ways that we might not foresee. Generally speaking, it should favor players who have greater experience, but there’s a reason these questions are left unanswered until we get on the field.

Position: Outside Linebacker

Up for Grabs: Top Backup

In the Mix: Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, Tuzar Skipper, Alex Highsmith

Theoretically, you can also throw James Lockhart’s name into the mix, but he would be fortunate to make the roster, let alone have a role, so I’m not going to include his name here, in the discussion of who the number three outside linebacker will be on the team, behind starters T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree.

The position for the top backup became open when the Steelers released Anthony Chickillo earlier this offseason, a move that was predictable after he signed a bottom-heavy two-year deal last offseason that gave him an unrealistically inflated cap figure for the 2020 season.

The problem is that now the Steelers don’t have any outside linebackers behind their starters who have much experience. Ola Adeniyi is a third-year former undrafted free agent who has spent a fair chunk of his time in the NFL either on injured reserve or active after having recovered from injury. He has gotten some playing time, but not a significant amount.

Like Adeniyi, Tuzar Skipper is also a former undrafted free agent, heading into his second year. He performed well in the preseason, making the initial 53-man roster before being waived and then lost for most of the year. He saw some playing time with the Giants, but eventually made his way back to Pittsburgh, where he did not see snaps.

The final contender is Alex Highsmith, a third-round pick, but he has some knocks against him. For one thing, he is a small-school product with one year of productivity as a pass rusher. For another, he is a rookie in an offseason in which there have been no physical practices, though he has worked together with teammates on their own.

One of these players will be the top reserve edge defender this year. Or possibly they will have one on each side. Adeniyi is the most experienced, Highsmith the most talented. Skipper falls somewhere in the middle of both.

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