The Pittsburgh Steelers announced the signing of rookie outside linebacker David Anenih yesterday, adding him to their 53-man roster from the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad. Anenih was originally signed after the draft by Tennessee as a rookie free agent and made a strong push to make the final 53-man roster there.
Now in Pittsburgh, he already got the rundown from his now-former teammates, as 60 percent of the Titans’ outside linebacker depth chart consists of players who have been on the Steelers’ roster within the past two seasons, particularly Bud Dupree and Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, but also the recently-claimed Derrek Tuszka.
“Yeah, they were all here, man”, Anenih told reporters in his first media availability just hours after joining the organization, via the team’s website, referring to the aforementioned players. “They just told me that I’m gonna like it, it’s a great environment. The coaching staff, the players, the whole organization. They just said I was gonna enjoy it, that it’s a great city”.
Separately, he also spoke to reporters in the locker room, from video captured by Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, on which he says that Dupree and company told him that he’s “gonna love it here”. Unsurprisingly, he said that they didn’t talk much about schematics, but just said that he would love his time in Pittsburgh with the Steelers.
Dupree was the Steelers’ first-round draft pick back in 2015. While it took him a few years to fully blossom, he become a Pro Bowl-level player by the end of his tenure, and he parlayed that growth into one of the few big-money deals of the pandemic-shrunken cap year of 2021 with the Titans.
Adeniyi was first signed by the Steelers as a college free agent out of Toledo, and he impressed enough to make the 53-man roster outright. While he never became the next James Harrison, and nagging injuries (which he played through) were also an issue, the team was happy with him. He recorded 2.5 sacks with the Titans in 2021, the first in the regular season of his career.
The Pittsburgh-to-Tennessee pipeline is not a new one, with former coordinators like Ken Whisenhunt and Mike Mularkey serving as head coaches there and even Dick LeBeau spending some time leading their defense. Even now, their head coach is Mike Vrabel, a Steelers third-round pick in 1997 who played five seasons there.
In other words, it hasn’t been surprising to see so many Steelers players, and even former players turned coaches, showing up in Tennessee for the past several years as a result of those connections. We saw a similar phenomenon in Arizona after 2006 when Whisenhunt had that head coaching job.
Will the pipeline work successfully in the reverse direction? Anenih may not play much as the fourth outside linebacker on the depth chart, and his time may only last for as long as Watt is on the Reserve/Injured List, but now is the time for him to catch people’s attention.