I remember 2018 training camp when I saw photos and video of a player wearing the No. 92 jersey. The same No. 92 jersey which was occupied by James Harrison just a season prior before being released by the Steelers and signed by the New England Patriots.
Could the Steelers really give out Harrison’s number so soon? After all, plenty of numbers have been unofficially retired for years. After the shock of seeing another player in Harrison’s old threads wore off, I began to watch this unknown player from an unknown location in the preseason.
When I looked up his name, I was happy to see people called him ‘Ola’ rather than this given name Olasunkanmi Adeniyi. Needless to say, the more I watched, the more I was impressed. Adeniyi was getting rave reviews in training camp, and this even bled onto the preseason gridiron.
Then the fourth preseason game came, and Adeniyi left with an injured hamstring, an injury which would land him on the injured reserve list to start the 2018 regular season. Adeniyi was activated off the reserve list at the end of the season, but failed to dress for a game and register a sack.
Throughout that time it would be easy for fans to forget just how dominant Adeniyi was last preseason. But if that were the case, and they follow the news coming out of 2019 training camp, they remember now.
While it is early in the process, Adeniyi has been nothing short of impressive since reporting to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. His shining achievement thus far? Sheer dominance in the ‘backs-on-backers’ drill. In fact, Mike Prisuta of the Steelers Official Website labeled Adeniyi as ‘unblockable’.
“I wouldn’t say all that,” he countered. “I’m just coming out here every day, trying to get better.”
On Sunday’s practice, the first in pads, Adeniyi had eight repetitions in the famous ‘backs-on-backers’ drills. Of those eight reps, he was 8-0, but it depends who you were asking and how they scored a win or loss.
According to Prisuta:
He went 7-1 according to one reporter’s notebook, with three consecutive decisions over rookie running back Travon McMillian, two victories over second-year running back Jaylen Samuels and a 2-1 showing against rookie running back Benny Snell Jr.
“I might have been 8-0, but 7-1 isn’t too bad,” Adeniyi maintained.
Say what you want about it being practice, sometimes without pads, but Adeniyi is getting the attention of Mike Tomlin, and that is certainly noteworthy.
“Man, Ola’s flashing and showing some burst and finishing some rushes,” Tomlin assessed.
When looking at the Steelers’ outside linebacker (OLB) depth, it is a position of need. After T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree and Anthony Chickillo, there is at least one spot remaining for someone to take. Last season the Steelers went into the season with just three OLBs on the roster, but if Adeniyi would have been healthy you have to wonder if it would have been 4, rather than 3.
A lot can change between now and cut down day, but one thing is for sure, Adeniyi is making a case for himself to not just make the 53-man roster, but to play.
The Steelers have Tuesday off, but be sure to follow BTSC for the best commentary, features and film breakdowns around as the Steelers prepare for the 2019 regular season.