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: Depth
In the Mix: Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, Tuzar Skipper, Cavon Walker, James Lockhart
Some may disagree with me, but in my estimation, there are only three outside linebackers who are locked in and guaranteed a roster spot for the 2020 season, those being the two starters, T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree, along with rookie third-round draft pick Alex Highsmith. The rest of the spots are at least somewhat up for grabs.
With the earlier release of Anthony Chickillo, the outside linebacker position has somewhat opened up. The Steelers will have to spend training camp figuring out how best to structure their roster, and whether that includes four or five outside linebackers.
The team did spend much of last season with five outside linebackers. While Tuzar Skipper made the initial 53-man roster, he was waived and then lost off waivers before the opener. But Jayrone Elliott spent a good deal of time bouncing on and off the roster, and later in the year, they did manage to bring Skipper back.
Olasunkanmi Adeniyi has now been on the roster for two seasons since being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2018, but he hasn’t yet made any significant contributions. While he is probably fairly close to being locked into a spot, it is not guaranteed.
And even if he is heavily favored to make the team, there remains open the possibility for another to join him. Skipper may be the leading candidate because of his previous experience with the team, but Cavon Walker, though listed as a lineman, will possibly factor in as well after being signed following the collapse of the XFL due to his success as a pass rusher.
The Steelers also signed James Lockhart as a college free agent following the 2020 NFL Draft. Considering that is how they found Adeniyi and Skipper, it would not exactly be wise to dismiss him, though both of them had successful preseason runs, which will not be available to the newcomer.