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Analysis: Why Ola Adeniyi Was Chosen Over Keion Adams

Making splash plays always count no matter the season. Unfortunately, second-year outside linebacker Keion Adams learned this lesson the hard way and lost a potential roster spot in the process. Coming into this offseason, few knew much about undrafted free agent Olasunkanmi Adeniyi out Toledo. Adams, on the other hand, came into training camp with expectations of making the roster after a strong showing before sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury during training camp last season. When the Steelers decided to move on from veteran linebacker Arthur Moats, all signs pointed to Adams taking over his spot; even with that, Adams had to prove himself worthy.

Let’s analyze this from a production standpoint if we can. Adams led his team in pressures, in fact, much of the time when he playing, he was seen forcing the quarterback out of the pocket. To his credit, he was consistently able to do so as noted in their preseason loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Adeniyi in comparison was more efficient. In addition to having as many pressures as Adams, he managed to translate those pressures into big plays. His strip sack in late in the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers was not only his fourth sack of the preseason, but his second forced fumble as well. His level of play during these games was consistent with his performances during training camp. Adams, in contrast, had a reasonable training camp but failed to stand out in the same way Adeniyi did so.

From a technique standpoint, Adeniyi was one of the few outside linebackers who was adept at using his hands. Adeniyi was able to use his hands to set up the following move. With the noted exception being second-year linebacker TJ Watt, a majority of outside linebackers currently on the roster neglect using their hands to create the space needed for their next moves.

Coming into training camp, I had labeled Adams as the most natural pass rusher on the roster due to his quick first step and his natural ability to bend the edge; however, when viewing him this preseason, he seemed a step slower and he was never quite able to bend the way he used to. In my estimation, his weight gain and the year he missed due to injury affected both his quickness and some of his flexibility, though he was seemingly stronger.

The most ideal scenario for Steelers fans, in this case, would have involved both Adeniyi and Adams making the roster with one of them stealing a spot the incumbent, Anthony Chickillo, who had a poor preseason overall. What is important to remember is that Chickillo had both veteran experience and special teams play to his advantage; thus it would have been imperative for both Adeniyi and Adams to make a similar type of impact in games. As it turned out, the coaching staff saw one player make splash plays and the other getting pressures. For a team looking to win a Superbowl this season, they need players on both ends capable of making splash plays.

Adams clearing waivers and signing to the Steelers practice squad is as a good a scenario as one could conceive as they keep both promising pass rushers in the fold. With recent news of Adeniyi starting the season on injury reserve, I have no doubt we will be seeing Adams back in action sooner than later.

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