Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: OLB Olasunkanmi Adeniyi
Stock Value: Down
Reasoning: Three years after being anointed the next James Harrison, it appears as though the dust is settling on what Olasunkanmi Adeniyi’s career trajectory likely will be, which is a special teams contributor and rotational reserve.
Technically speaking, Olasunkanmi Adeniyi played more in 2020 than he had in each of his first two seasons combined. He logged 144 snaps on defense, versus just 71 in his first two seasons. Additionally, he became a core special teams contributor, logging 286 snaps. He didn’t see special teams work at all as a rookie, but played 222 snaps in 2019.
With that said, even though he was a former college free agent, there always seemed to be lingering belief that Adeniyi would emerge as a diamond in the rough and become the next James Harrison, who like Adeniyi came out of a MAC school and wore the number 92.
Instead, he was surpassed in 2020 by a rookie draft pick in Alex Highsmith. Granted, he was a third-round draft pick, but with a limited offseason, and substantially less experience. Highsmith came from an even smaller school as well.
On top of that, when the Steelers added Cassius Marsh late in the season, the veteran was logging snaps ahead of him. For example, in the playoff loss, after Highsmith went down, it was Marsh who took over, playing 46 snaps on defense, while Adeniyi had single-digit snaps.
Marsh is a pending unrestricted free agent, and for the moment, it’s hard to gauge the team’s level of interest in retaining him, but he would likely be able to be had for a veteran-minimum qualifying contract, given that he was scooped up off of a practice squad.
The ‘down’ evaluation is perhaps unfair and rests upon misguided expectations. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that, and I’m sure it’ll be addressed in the comments below. Maybe even Adeniyi will see it and get pissed off and block me and write something bad about me.
But in a year in which he could have taken a significant step forward in being a regular rotational player after Anthony Chickillo was let go, and even potentially position himself to be in competition for a future starting job, he did little to distinguish himself from who he has been most of his career, which is a quality special teams player and an adequate rotational player on defense.