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Close to being able to practice, could Ola Adeniyi be an answer for ailing Steelers’ passrush?

October 4, 2018

Steelers linebacker Olasunkamni Adeniyi sacks Titans quarterback Luke Falk Saturday Aug. 25, 2018 at Heinz Field.

Unsolicited during his weekly news conference Tuesday, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin cited an ability (or lack thereof) to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks as a key to solving what is ailing the defense.

While Tomlin was directly referring to improving the play and production from those on the current 53-man roster, the passrush is in line to add a reinforcement.

Rookie Ola Adeniyi is eligible to return to practice Oct. 15, and the rookie outside linebacker said Wednesday he will be physically able to as soon as league rules allow. Adeniyi was put on the injured reserve list after suffering a hamstring injury during the final preseason game.

“I’m good (physically); I have been good for weeks,” Adeniyi said.

“Ride it out, just two more weeks.”

A player can return to practice after six weeks on IR; he can’t play until he’s sat out eight games. That is a change for this season; in prior recents seasons, a player could miss eight weeks (not games) before being activated. This season, the result is that Adeniyi is eligible to be activated off of injured reserve in time for the Steelers’ Nov. 8 game against Carolina.

Also, it should be noted that teams have a 21-day window in which to activate a player who begins practicing while on IR.

Adeniyi was initially surprised when the Steelers put him on IR after he made the team through its final cuts before the regular season. He then vowed there was “no question” he would be ready to go when eligible, and nothing has happened since then to change that outlook.

Adeniyi perhaps can’t be activated soon enough for a defense that’s had trouble getting pressure on quarterbacks. After having seven sacks in the opener at Cleveland, the Steelers have gotten just six sacks the past three games. Just three (two from Bud Dupree, one from Anthony Chickillo) have come from outside linebackers.

More damning, the Steelers had no quarterback hurries/pressures of Joe Flacco during Sunday night’s loss to Baltimore outside of sacks by Dupree and Javon Hargrave. By the team’s own accounting, the defense combined for just seven pressures/hurries in their two losses combined; the Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs combined for 699 passing yards, eight touchdowns, no interceptions and a 142.5 passer rating in those games.

Adeniyi led the Steelers during the preseason with three sacks after he had eight sacks last season for Toledo. Combining those numbers with his size (6 feet 1, 248 pounds), undrafted status, Mid-American Conference roots and the No. 92 jersey he was assigned, and fans are instantly reminded of James Harrison when they see Adeniyi.

After having five outside linebackers on their 53-man roster for most of last season, the Steelers this season broke camp with only three - a further indication they plan on activating Adeniyi as soon as they are permitted to.

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