Roster turnover is an inevitability in this league, but the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster has changed considerably since the end of last season, with many players who have been important to this franchise now gone, either retired, in limbo, or in another uniform. As we wind down the time until training camp opens, it feels appropriate to acknowledge the old faces that we’ll no longer be seeing on the sidelines this year.
That includes Pro Bowlers and former high draft picks, as well as undrafted free agents of varying accomplishment. Four losses along the offensive line, multiple departures at linebacker and in the secondary, and other changes mixed in, will make for a rather different roster.
All the same, there are the steady presences that remain: the Ben Roethlisbergers, the T.J. Watts, the Cameron Heywards. Who will be the next long-term faces? Minkah Fitzpatrick will certainly be one. What about Cameron Sutton? Zach Banner? Kevin Dotson? Devin Bush? When will their names be included in this retrospective?
OLB Olasunkanmi Adeniyi
Though rare, it’s not the first time that the Steelers have allowed a restricted free agent to leave in free agency after declining to offer them a tender. Several years ago, it was inside linebacker Terence Garvin, for example. This year, it was Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, a 2018 college free agent outside linebacker out of Toledo.
Following an excellent rookie preseason, Steelers fans had high hopes for Adeniyi that never really panned out. Injuries during his second season (despite playing all 16 games) didn’t help, but he only played 215 defensive snaps in his three seasons in Pittsburgh.
But he also played over 500 snaps on special teams, all of which came over the past two seasons. He logged 286 snaps on special teams in 15 games last year, which is a lot of work that Danny Smith is going to have to replace.
In terms of depth, Adeniyi’s loss felt more significant, albeit marginally, 24 hours ago. But, of course, the Steelers have agreed to terms with former Pro Bowl starter Melvin Ingram since then, ostensibly resolving any depth concerns.
In addition to Ingram, the Steelers have veteran journeyman Cassius Marsh and rookie sixth-round pick Quincy Roche as depth at outside linebacker, behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, the latter a second-year former third-round pick who is entering the starting lineup for the first time.
Adeniyi did re-mold himself into a quality special teams player, though, and he did log 144 snaps on defense last season, which is not insignificant. But the reality is that he is still searching for his first career sack as he follows Bud Dupree to the Tennessee Titans, playing on a one-year, $1 million contract with $200,000 guaranteed. Less than half the price of what an original-round restricted free agent tender would have cost.