The Pittsburgh Steelers have been playing with fire throughout the 2018 regular season. No, I’m not talking about their propensity to want to give the football to the opposition at inopportune times, but by just carrying three outside linebackers on their roster.
The plan they had in place with T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree as the starters, and Anthony Chickillo being able to rotate from both sides to spell one or the other had worked for 11 weeks of the regular season.
Then Week 12 against the Denver Broncos happened.
But I might be getting ahead of myself slightly. In the waning minutes of the Week 11 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Chickillo suffered an ankle injury which put him on the injury report for the majority of the week. The injury was enough to have the Steelers move rookie Ola Adeniyi from the Injured Reserve (IR) list to the designated to return list. This means the Steelers have a couple weeks before deciding on putting the rookie pass rusher on the roster.
With Adeniyi waiting in the wings, the loss to the Broncos brought forth more injuries to the position in the form of a wrist injury to Watt, and a shoulder injury to Dupree. Yes, both players re-entered the game, but combine that with Chickillo’s bum ankle and the Steelers are in dire straits at the position.
Am I suggesting Adeniyi is some kind of savior at the position? No. Not a chance. But I am suggesting he is a healthy player who could help the Steelers down the stretch in specific situations.
Adeniyi showed very good pass rushing technique throughout the preseason, and looked to be a lock to make the roster before a hamstring injury landed him on IR. While his promotion would be more out of necessity than novelty, the team would have to let someone go to make room for him on the 53-man roster. A player like Justin Hunter or Brian Allen certainly could be on the chopping block to make room, but at this point the team doesn’t have much of a choice.
The Steelers host the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 13 at Heinz Field, and it very well might be Adeniyi’s first NFL action of his young career. If not, then the Steelers must be very confident in the health of the aforementioned OLB corps moving forward.
Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes on the Steelers as they prepare for Philip Rivers and company in prime time next week.